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Rick Nixon | | February 14, 2018

Oregon's nearly-flawless Ruthy Hebard leads Starting Five

Oregon's Sabrina Ionescu talks with Andy Katz

Every week,'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:

Ruthy Hebard, Oregon

Oregon sophomore forward Ruthy Hebard flirted with perfection last week, going 25-of-27 from the field in a pair of road wins at Washington and Washington State.

Over the two games Hebard averaged 29.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, shooting 92.6 percent from the floor and 9-of-11 at the free throw line.

She scored a career-high 30 points in the 76-63 win at Washington on Feb. 9.  Hebard connected on 13-of-15 field goals while also pulling down 14 rebounds for her seventh double-double of the season.  The Ducks swept the season series against the Huskies with the win.  

In Sunday’s 90-79 win over Washington State, Hebard was a perfect 12-for-12 from the floor, setting a new Oregon single-game field goal percentage record. With 16 first half points, Hebard also reached 1,000 career points.  Later in the same game, Sabrina Ionescu joined her in the 1K club on a bucket in the fourth period.  The pair joined Jillian Alleyne as the only sophomores in Oregon history to reach the milestone.  Oregon now has three active 1,000 career point scorers in Ionescu, Hebard and Lexi Bando, who reached the mark last season.

The Ducks, 23-4, 12-2 Pac-12, have notched their most league wins since the 2004-05 season when they went 12-6.  They return to action on Feb. 16 at home against USC.

Sophie Cunningham, Missouri

Missouri junior guard Sophie Cunningham continues to fill the box score for the Tigers and now has 11 games of 20-or-more points this season, after averaging 23.5 points in two wins last week over Kentucky and Arkansas.

On Feb. 8 in an 83-78 home win over Kentucky, Cunningham put on a stellar shooting display as she totaled 29 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field, including 5-of-7 from behind the arc. Cunningham's 29 points marked her highest output in a Southeastern Conference (SEC) contest this season.  It was Cunningham’s sixth game of 25-or-more points this season and 31st career game of 20-plus points.  She also added five assists.

On Monday, Cunningham followed with 18 points in 30 minutes as Missouri won at Arkansas, 84-58.  She connected on 4-of-5 attempts from beyond the arc.  

Over the two games, Cunningham shot 9-of-12 from long range and now leads the SEC in 3-point field goal percentage, shooting 47.4 percent. She also ranks second in the league in free throw percentage, making 84.7 percent of her attempts at the line, after hitting 10-of-12 free throws last week. Cunningham is the only player in the nation shooting at least 84 percent from the free throw line, 47 percent from 3-point range and 55 percent from the field.

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Missouri, 20-5 and 8-4 SEC, will next travel to Auburn Feb. 15.

Kitija Laksa, South Florida

One of 10 finalists for the Ann Meyers Drysdale award recognizing the top shooting guard in the country, South Florida junior Kitija Laksa averaged 33 points per game in two wins last week and turned in one of the top performances in the country on Sunday as the Latvian guard netted a career-high 41 points in an 84-65 rout of No. 13 Ohio State.

Laksa's career outing was not her first 40-point performance this season but it was her most impressive. Laksa finished 15-of-27 from the floor and 8-of-13 from long range. The nation's best free throw shooter was also perfect from the line. Laksa tied an American Athletic Conference single-game scoring record and led the Bulls to their most commanding victory over a top-15 team. With her 41 points, Laksa moved up to seventh on South Florida’s all-time scoring list with 1,504 points. Laksa needs six more points to move into a tie for sixth place with Mary Klinewski (1981-85).

Earlier in the week, Laksa scored 25 points, netting her 10th 20-point performance and shot 58 percent from the floor and 45 percent from behind the arc in an 88-47 win over East Carolina. Laksa finished 10-for-17 from the floor and tallied five three-pointers and added four rebounds, four assists and a steal.

South Florida, 20-5 and 9-2 in the American, has now recorded 20-or-more wins in six consecutive seasons.  The Bulls return to action on Feb. 14 at home versus SMU.

Alexis Montgomery, Seattle

Alexis Montgomery of Seattle recorded the first triple-double by a Western Athletic Conference (WAC) player since 2006 as the Redhawks scored a pair of victories last week.

In a 66-62 win over Kansas City on Feb. 8, Montgomery posted 14 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists for the first triple-double in Seattle’s Division I program history. It is just the fifth triple-double in WAC history and the first in 12 years.

Montgomery followed up with a 13-point, 17-rebound, six-assist performance in a 72-60 win over Chicago State on Feb. 10. She passed Lisa Hill on the Redhawks’ career scoring list in the contest. Montgomery ranks seventh in program history with 1,360 points.

The senior wing from Beaverton, Ore., has won five WAC Player of the Week honors this season, the most since Adrienne Johnson of Louisiana Tech claimed five in the 2010-11 campaign.  She leads the WAC in scoring (20.3), rebounding (10.1), and free throw percentage (84.7) this season.

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The Redhawks, 13-11 overall and in sole possession of second place in the WAC at 7-2, next head to UTRGV (Feb. 15) and New Mexico State (Feb. 18) for a pair of WAC road games.

Fans’ Vote:

Jen Berkowitz, Yale

Senior forward Jen Berkowitz led Yale to its first Ivy League road sweep in five years, lifting the Bulldogs from fifth place in the Ivy standings to a tie for third with six games remaining in the regular season.  Yale is now on pace to earn one of the four spots in the Ivy League Tournament to be played March 10-11 in Philadelphia.

Berkowitz led the team in scoring each night, scoring 21 points and pulling down five rebounds while shooting 10-16 from the floor (62.5 percent) in a 73-50 win at Columbia on Feb. 9.

The next night at Cornell, she totaled 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting while pulling down eight rebounds in the 65-55 win.  It was Yale's first win at Cornell in five years, and seniors led the way in their final trip to Ithaca.  Senior guard Tamara Simpson backed Berkowitz with 17 points, shooting 3-for-6 from three-point territory and adding four steals.

Berkowitz now leads the Ivy in field goal percentage (.571), is third in the league in free throw percentage (.733), is fifth in the league in scoring (15.3) and is eighth in the league in rebounding (7.6).  She now has 937 career points, putting her 63 away from joining the 1,000-point club. She would need to average 10.5 points per game for the remaining six games to reach that milestone.

Yale, 12-9 and 5-3 Ivy, will host Dartmouth (Feb. 16) and Harvard (Feb. 17) this weekend.

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