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:
Kalani Brown, Baylor
The national leader in field goal percentage, Baylor junior Kalani Brown shot .639 (23-36) from the floor and .706 (12-17) from the foul line in leading the Lady Bears to two wins.
Brown netted a team-high 25 points in 33 minutes on the road in a 79-50 win at Iowa State, while adding nine rebounds, four assists and one block to her line. She was 11-of-17 from the floor against the Cyclones and combined with teammate Lauren Cox (21 points) for 46 points.
Junior center Kalani Brown earns first @Big12Conference Player of the Week honor of the season & the fourth of her career: https://t.co/cn6IwvPf2G #SicEm #RiseAsOne #Big12WBB pic.twitter.com/thVXjo9fON— Baylor Lady Bears (@BaylorWBB) January 22, 2018
Against Kansas State, Brown recorded a team-high 33 points and tied for the team lead with 19 rebounds. She is only the third player in league history to score at least 33 points and grab 19 rebounds in a Big 12 game and the first to do so since Feb. 25, 2007 (Oklahoma’s Courtney Paris, vs. Missouri). The performance marked the 6-7 center’s eighth double-double of the season and the 20th of her career. Brown, who also finished the game with a team-high two blocks, made 12-of-19 field goal attempts and 9-of-11 free throw attempts against the Wildcats.
Brown has scored 20 or more points 12 times this season and 18 times in her career, and scored 30 points or more twice this year and three times in her Baylor career.
After totaling 58 points in two games and leading #3 @BaylorWBB to wins over Iowa State and Kansas State this weekend, Kalani Brown is the @CitizenWatchUS Naismith Trophy Women's Player of the Week! @Big12Conference pic.twitter.com/5y14Ja2p5k— The Naismith Trophy (@NaismithTrophy) January 23, 2018
Through 18 games, Brown leads the Big 12 in scoring (21.7) and field goal percentage (.706), is second in defensive rebounds (6.6), fourth in rebounding (9.3), seventh in offensive rebounds (2.8), eighth in free throw percentage (.788) and ninth in blocked shots (1.2). The 2018 Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year is third in the league with her eight double-doubles on the season.
The No. 3 Lady Bears (17-1 and 10-0 Big 12) return to action inside the Ferrell Center against No. 6 Texas on Thursday, Jan. 25.
Kia Nurse, UConn
The nation’s top three-point shooter, senior guard Kia Nurse led UConn to three wins last week as the top-ranked Huskies improved to 18-0 on the season.
The Hamilton, Ontario native averaged 18.0 points per game and shot 60 percent from the field and 55.6 percent from long-range as top-ranked UConn scored wins at No. 7 Texas, Tulsa and at Temple.
She scored 13 points and chased-down five rebounds in 40-minutes of action against the Longhorns. Nurse was 3-6 from the floor and made all six attempts from the free throw line as UConn prevailed 75-71.
Nurse followed that up with 17-point effort in the win 78-60 win over Tulsa on Jan. 18. She shot 5-7 from three-point range against the Golden Hurricane.
Nurse’s best game of the week came on Sunday when she scored 24-points and dished-out four assists without committing a single turnover in the 113-57 win over Temple. Nurse was 9-13 from the field, snared six rebounds and was 4-8 from deep against the Owls.
Husky fans, check out the Top 5 Plays from yesterdays win vs Temple! pic.twitter.com/W6E4teJzLj— UConn Women's Hoops (@UConnWBB) January 22, 2018
Nurse continues to lead the nation in three-point field goal shooting percentage at 50 percent and has been a constant as the Huskies have won 114 straight road games against unranked opponents. The last loss came on Dec. 21, 2004 at Arizona State. The victory over Temple was UConn's 147th straight against a non-ranked opponent and also kept it unbeaten in the American Athletic Conference since joining with 77 regular-season wins and all four conference championships.
UConn next plays at Memphis on Jan. 24.
Katelynn Flaherty, Michigan
Senior Katelynn Flaherty has helped lead Michigan back into contention in the Big Ten Conference, leading the Wolverines to three wins over the last week and five straight overall.
In Michigan's 84-75 win at No. 8 Ohio State (Jan. 16), Flaherty went for 21 points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal in 40 minutes. She scored 18 of her 21 in the second half as Michigan rallied for the road win.
She followed that up with 27 points, eight assists, four rebounds and a career-high four steals in Michigan's 86-42 win over Illinois (Jan. 20). Flaherty also became the seventh player in Big Ten history to reach 2,500 points, pushing her total to 2,505.
In her latest outing, Flaherty poured in a game-high 26 points as Michigan smashed in-state rival Michigan State, 74-48, on Tuesday (Jan. 23) inside Crisler Center. The 26-point margin of victory is the largest in the series for Michigan, which beat the Spartans for the first time since Feb. 5, 2015. Flaherty also chipped in six assists and three boards in 34 minutes.
Michigan (18-4 and 7-2 Big Ten) will next travel to Northwestern on Jan. 28.
Shakayla Thomas, Florida State
Florida State senior forward Shakayla Thomas continues to show why she is one of the top players in the country, with two double-doubles as the Seminoles scored wins over Wake Forest and Louisville.
Thomas averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds in nail-biting wins at Wake Forest (81-79 in OT) and No. 2 Louisville (50-49). Particularly impressive were her points scored down the stretch of both games, averaging 14.0 second-half points on 58.8 percent shooting (10-of-17).
Against Wake Forest, Florida State trailed by 15 with 9:43 remaining in the game before Thomas ignited a rally with 26 points and eight rebounds in the second half and overtime. She finished with 28 points and 11 boards in the win at the Demon Deacons.
At Louisville, Thomas scored 14 points along with 11 rebounds in 31 minutes played as the Seminoles handed the Cardinals a first loss on the season. She led Florida State with seven made field goals in a game where points were very difficult to come by. She once again led the charge following a 15-point deficit in the first half.
Over the final five minutes of both games combined, Thomas totaled 12 of Florida State’s 26 points scored – including all six of the Seminoles’ overtime points at Wake Forest.
Overall, Thomas leads the Seminoles averaging 18.5 points while shooting 52.9 percent from the floor.
Florida State, 18-2 overall and 6-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, hosts No. 5 Notre Dame in an important conference matchup this Sunday, Jan. 28.
Liza Fruendt, Missouri State
Senior guard Liza Fruendt scored 62 points in two wins and became the first Missouri State player with 29-plus points in consecutive games since Jackie Stiles had games of 32, 41 and 32 in the 2001 NCAA tournament.
Fruendt, who now sits in a tie for 12th in Missouri State history with 1,469 career points, shot 22-for-37 (.595) overall and 9-for-19 (.474) from 3-point range, adding 3.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game in wins against Valparaiso and Bradley.
On Jan. 19, the Batavia, Ill. native poured in a season-high 33 points in the 83-60 home win over Valpo, going 11-for-19 with four 3-pointers, three rebounds, three steals, and five assists against one turnover in 28 minutes. Fruendt and Aubrey Buckley combined for 50 points, including nine each during a decisive 24-0 third-period run that fueled the victory.
Sunday against Loyola, Fruendt shot 11-for-18 with five treys to finish with 29 points and three boards. Missouri State shot 55 percent and out-scored visiting Loyola by 41 points over the final three periods as head coach Kellie Harper notched her 250th career win.
The Lady Bears (11-8, 7-1 Missouri Valley Conference) have now won 10 of their last 12 games and are off to their best conference start since the 2004-05 campaign, when they started 8-1. Next up is a Jan. 26 game at third-place Southern Illinois (11-8, 6-2).