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Rick Nixon | | March 1, 2018

Drexel's Brown leads starting five with career mark in 2OT win

  Aubree Brown (11) led Drexel to its first win over James Madison in five years.

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:

Aubree Brown, Drexel

Drexel sophomore guard Aubree Brown led the Dragons to a pair of victories against James Madison and Towson over the weekend, averaging 21.0 points, 4.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game.

Named the National Player of the Week by the United States Basketball Writers Association, Brown scored a career-high 26 points in helping to lead Drexel to a 73-71 double overtime upset of James Madison on Feb. 23.  With the win, the Dragons moved into a virtual tie for first in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). She scored 20 of her 26 points in the second half, including 10 in the two overtimes. The win was the first for Drexel against James Madison since March 16, 2013, and the first at home against the Dukes since Jan. 3, 2010.

On Sunday in a 62-54 win over Towson, Brown was again the high scorer with 16 points. The win improved Drexel to 22-6 on the season, a new program record for regular season victories. The previous record had been held by the 2008-09 team, which went 21-8 in the regular season en route to CAA regular season and tournament championships. This year's Dragons remain a half game behind James Madison for first place and even with the Dukes in the loss column with two games to play.

A starter in each of Drexel's 28 games thus far this year, Brown is averaging 9.8 points per game and a team-best 4.5 assists a contest. Earlier this year, she put together the second triple-double in program history, scoring 10 with 11 assists and 10 rebounds in the win at the College of Charleston.

MBB: 9 numbers from Drexel basketball's rally, the biggest comeback in NCAA history

Drexel remains in position to ensure itself at least a share of the CAA title with victories in its final two games. The final weekend of the regular season begins on Thursday when the Dragons visit Delaware. The regular season will then conclude on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. as Drexel hosts the College of Charleston.

Megan Gustafson, Iowa

Iowa junior Megan Gustafson averaged 31.5 points, 14.5 rebounds, and shot 71.4 percent from the field in a pair of Iowa wins last week.

The Big Ten Player of the Year, Gustafson registered 27 points on 10-for-14 (71.4 percent) shooting from the field and pulled down 14 rebounds in Iowa's 77-67 overtime win at Rutgers on Feb. 21. Gustafson scored nine points, grabbed three rebounds, and was a perfect 5-for-5 from the free throw line in overtime to seal the road victory for the Hawkeyes. Gustafson also broke a pair of school records in the contest, besting the single-season marks for points (734) and rebounds (370).

On Feb. 24, Gustafson scored 36 points on 15-of-21 shooting (74.1 percent) from the field in Iowa's win over Indiana. She also grabbed 15 rebounds to help Iowa to its seventh straight win. Gustafson recorded 18 points and 10 rebounds in the first half, and finished the game one point shy of her career-high (37 vs. Purdue).

Gustafson finished the regular season ranked in the top-5 nationally in eight statistical categories. She leads the nation in points per game (25.3), total points (734), and field goals made (285), second in field goal percentage (66.7) and double-doubles (26), third in rebounds (370), and fifth in rebounds per game (12.8) and defensive rebounds per game (9).

Gustafson, a native of Port Wing, Wisconsin, is just the fifth Hawkeye in program history to be named Big Ten Player of the Year and the first to do so since 1998. She joins Michelle Edwards (1988), Franthea Price (1990), Toni Foster (1993), and Tangela Smith (1998). Gustafson is the only Hawkeye to earn the award as a junior.

Women's college basketball: Mercer makes AP Top 25 for first time in 38 years

In 16 conference contests this season, Gustafson averaged 27.7 points (1st in Big Ten), 13.1 rebounds (2nd), and shot a Big Ten-best 64.7 percent from the field. Gustafson registered 20-or-more points in 15 of Iowa's 16 conference games and grabbed 10-or-more rebounds 14 times.

Gustafson and the Hawkeyes, 23-6 and 11-5, open up Big Ten Tournament play on Thursday, March 1 in Indianapolis. Iowa will face the winner of Wednesday's contest between 12th-seeded Northwestern and 13th-seeded Wisconsin.

Kahlia Lawrence, Mercer

Three-time Southern Conference (SoCon) Player of the Year, Mercer senior Kahlia Lawrence averaged 20.0 points, 5.5 boards, 2.0 steals and 1.3 assists as the Bears clinched the SoCon regular season championship for the first time in program history.

Lawrence has been an instrumental player in Mercer's current 24-game winning streak, marking the third longest active winning streak in NCAA Division I women's basketball.

The senior scored 25 points in a 65-56 win over Chattanooga on Feb. 22 to help the Bears seal the program's first-ever outright SoCon regular season title. Lawrence then scored 15 in a 63-48 victory over ETSU to close out the regular season with a 27-2 overall record, including 14-0 in conference play.

Lawrence has led the SoCon in scoring this season, averaging 18.6 points per game and 17.1 points per game in conference play. The senior guard finished the regular season atop the conference in points per game, while ranking 47th in the NCAA in final points with 538. This season, Lawrence tallied her 2,000th career point and 600th career rebound, becoming just the fourth player in Mercer history to eclipse 2,000 career points. Lawrence has reached double-figures in 24 games this season, bringing her career total to 104 games scoring 10-or-more points. Lawrence has also scored 20 points on 10 occasions this season.

Lawrence and the 25th-ranked Bears return to action on Thursday against eight-seeded Western Carolina in the opening round of the 2018 SoCon Women's Basketball Championship.

Teaira McCowan, Mississippi State

The dream season for Mississippi State and junior center Teaira McCowan continues.

McCowan averaged 18.0 points, 19.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in leading the Bulldogs to wins last week over Auburn and Kentucky as Mississippi State wrapped up the Southeastern Conference (SEC) regular season championship with a perfect 30-0 record.


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The SEC champion Bulldogs became the first league team since Tennessee in 1997-98 to finish the regular season undefeated and the first to do so since the conference switched to a 16-game league schedule.

McCowan helped send the Mississippi State senior class out with a victory as she scored 16 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in an 82-61 win against Auburn on Feb. 22. That outing gave her the school season double-double record with 21, bettering the previous mark set by Sandra Butler in 1983-84.

The Brenham, Texas, native notched her 22nd double-double and third 20-point, 20-rebound game of the year Sunday as she scored 20 points and grabbed 20 boards to go with five blocks in State's 85-63 win at Kentucky, its first in Lexington since 2009.  McCowan actually notched her double-double in the first half, collecting 17 points and 13 rebounds on 7-of-14 shooting.

McCowan is having the best season of her career, rating fourth in the SEC in scoring (18.7 points per game) and tops in rebounding (13.5 rebounds per game). She also ranks first on the boards in league games (14.4) and seventh in scoring (17.7).

McCowan and the Bulldogs face either Alabama or Kentucky at noon Friday in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament in Nashville, Tenn.

Fans’ Vote:

Becca Hittner, Drake

Drake sophomore Becca Hittner averaged 19.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game to help the Bulldogs defeat Bradley and Illinois State to lock up the second consecutive outright Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) regular season title for the program.

Against Bradley, Hittner poured in a game-high 24 points behind a 7-of-14 shooting performance, including knocking down a career-high five three-pointers on just eight attempts as the Bulldogs prevailed 77-71.  Drake overcame a four-point, fourth-quarter deficit to earn its seventh MVC title in program history.

In the 80-64 win over Illinois State on Sunday, Hittner scored 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including a making pair of three-pointers. She added four assists and three rebounds in the win.

In MVC play this season, Hittner is averaging the second-best scoring mark in the league at 15.5 points per game while shooting a league-high 50.0 percent from three-point range, 53.4 percent from the floor (4th in MVC), and league-best 95.2 percent from the free throw line.

Drake, 21-7, 16-0 MVC, will close out the MVC regular season with a two-game road trip at Loyola and Valparaiso, March 1 and 3, respectively.

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