Women's basketball players of the week: Imani Wright makes Starting Five behind record-setting game
Every week, NCAA.com's Starting Five will bring you a look at some of the top women's basketball players in the country. Here are the standout competitors:
Teaira McCowan, Mississippi State
In what is starting to become a normal occurrence, Mississippi State’s Teaira McCowan has once again earned a spot in the NCAA.com Starting Five.
McCowan averaged 33.5 points, 13.0 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 1.5 steals and shot 79.5 percent from the field as Mississippi State defeated Mississippi Valley State and Georgia to improve to 15-0 on the year and 1-0 in Southeastern Conference (SEC) play.
The stellar week included McCowan exploding for a career night with 41 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks in a 112-36 win against Mississippi Valley State. The Brenham, Texas, native became the 12th Bulldog to score 40 points in a game, tying Morgan William for eighth in school history. Her 19 field goals ranked one off the Mississippi State record.
She capped the week by knocking down 80 percent of her shots to finish with 26 points and 13 rebounds as the Bulldogs defeated Georgia 86-62 for the program's first win in Athens since 2002. The performance at Georgia, her 11th double-double of the season, helped Mississippi State open league play with a win for the fourth straight year, a program first. The Bulldogs' 86 points was the most allowed by Georgia in a game since 2006. McCowan notched her seventh-straight double-double by halftime with 15 points and 12 rebounds. She had 9 points and 9 boards in the opening quarter.
McCowan is third in the SEC in scoring this season at 20.3 points per game. Her 12.5 rebounds per game is second in the league and sixth in the nation. McCowan’s 66.8-percent season field goal percentage also leads the SEC and is fourth in the country. She also leads the conference and rates third nationally with her 11 double-doubles.
The Bulldogs will return to action on Jan. 4, hosting Arkansas.
Brittany McPhee, Stanford
Out of the Associated Press rankings last week for the first time since 2001, entering Pac-12 play losers of three of its last four and with its worst non-conference record in nearly 20 years, Stanford’s season was in need of a jolt. Brittany McPhee responded in a big way, leading the Cardinal to wins over No. 11 UCLA and USC.
McPhee averaged 23.5 points on 54 percent shooting, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in Stanford's home victories to start conference play. She totaled 26 points, seven rebounds and four assists in a 76-65 victory against the No. 11 Bruins, a win which averted the program's first three-game home losing streak since 1985-86. She followed that with 21 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and two steals in a 72-65 win against the Trojans. At her best when it mattered most, 22 of McPhee's 47 points in the two games came in the fourth quarter.
Stanford is a different team with a healthy McPhee on the floor. She returned to the lineup on Dec. 21 against No. 7 Tennessee and scored 27 after missing the previous nine games with a right foot injury. In the season opener at No. 5 Ohio State, she poured in 24 points and two days later she scored nine in Stanford's loss to No. 1 UConn on Nov. 12 and missed the next six weeks.
McPhee has scored 20-plus in four of her five games this season and is averaging 21.4 points per game to go with 5.6 rebounds. Of her 13 career 20-point games, six have come against ranked teams and her four highest-scoring performances have come against top-15 foes. Before Sunday's game with USC, McPhee's previous eight games and all been against ranked teams and she was averaging 19.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists.
The Cardinal (8-6, 2-0) will return to action on Jan. 5 at Arizona.
Abbey Sissom, Middle Tennessee
Middle Tennessee’s Abbey Sissom capped her torrid stretch over the final two weeks of 2017, with a game-high 22 points to lead the Lady Raiders to an important non-conference win over Kentucky on Dec. 28.
Middle Tennessee’s come-from-behind victory over Kentucky, in front of 4,209 partisan home fans, was the fifth win in the 19-game series all-time against the Wildcats, who had won the previous five seasons. Sissom totaled her 22 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including 5-of-7 from downtown and 5-of-6 from the free-throw line. She was also tasked at guarding Kentucky leading scorer Maci Morris, who went into the game averaging 16.2 points per outing but finished with 13. It was the first time in Sissom's career she scored 20 or more points in three straight games.
Prior to the Kentucky game, Sissom had earned All-Tournament honors at the UTRGV Holiday Classic in games versus USC and Canisius on Dec. 19-20, averaging 25 points, while shooting 50 percent from 3-point range and also added an average of three assists per contest to lead the Lady Raiders in the two games. In the 55-45 win against Canisius, Sissom accounted for 65 percent of the team’s 55 points. She poured in a career-high 28 points and also added four assists. Her nine field goals were also a career high, while also connecting on 5-of-11 treys.
Against USC, Sissom scored what was then a season-high 22 points on 7-of-13 from the field and 5-of-9 from 3-point range in a 72-57 defeat.
Middle Tennessee, 8-5, will return to action on Jan. 4 at Western Kentucky.
Imani Wright, Florida State
Hot-shooting Florida State redshirt senior guard Imani Wright continued to fill the box score in wins over Jacksonville and North Carolina.
Wright led Florida State in scoring in both games last week, highlighted by a new Florida State single-game record with eight 3-point field goals made in in the Seminoles’ 103-65 win over North Carolina on Sunday. She recorded 33 points against the Tar Heels, tying for the 14th-most points in a game in school history. Wright recorded career highs in 3-pointers made, points and field goals made (11) against North Carolina. In a 32-point win over Jacksonville on Dec. 28 (82-50), Wright led the way 24 points. In the second halves of both games, she averaged 17.0 points.
Going into the new year, Wright finds herself in seventh place all-time at Florida State with 116 career 3-point field goals made, which comes in just 49 career games played with the Garnet and Gold. This season, she already has 48 3-point field goals made, and her 3.43 3-point field goals made per game is 13th-most nationally.
Florida State, 13-1 overall and 1-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, moved up to 11th in the latest Associated Press Poll. Its next game is at Clemson on Thursday, Jan. 4.
Emily Clemens, Western Illinois
After leading Western Illinois to the biggest upset win in program history at No. 18 nationally-ranked Stanford on Dec. 19, senior guard Emily Clemens and the Leathernecks have shown no signs of letting up.
Clemens averaged 24.5 points, 10.0 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 steals in two games last week against Bradley and Fort Wayne. She also shot 54.8 percent (17-of-31) and a went perfect 13-of-13 from the charity stripe. The reigning Summit League Player of the Year and the current Preseason Player of the Year, Clemens now has seven games this season of 20 or more points and three games of 10 or more assists. She is also one of 20 names in the country to earn a spot on the Nancy Lieberman Award Preseason Watch List, which goes to the top point guard in the nation.
The Muscatine, Iowa native recorded 21 points, nine assists and went 6-for-6 from the charity stripe on the road in an 87-80 loss at Bradley (Dec. 28). She followed up with a 28-point, 11-assist performance two days later (Dec. 30) in the league-opening win over Fort Wayne to close out 2017. In that game, she also went 7-for-7 from the free-throw line as Western Illinois prevailed 100-64. The win over the Mastodons marked her third double-double this season, while her 28 points were just six shy of her career-high (34).
The Leathernecks (11-4, 1-0) will next return home for games against South Dakota (Jan. 4) and Oral Roberts (Jan. 6) in a pair of Summit League matchups.