The NCAA.com Starting Five honors a starting lineup of players from around the country who enjoyed standout performances for that week. Here’s the starters for the week of Dec. 31-Jan. 7.
Bridget Carleton, Iowa State
Iowa State continued its climb up The Associated Press women’s basketball national poll and Big 12 Conference standings with senior guard Bridget Carleton leading the way.
In wins last week over Kansas State and Kansas, Carleton averaged 29.5 points, 7.5 assists and 6.0 assists while shooting 58.3 percent from the floor as the Cyclones rolled to a pair of easy victories to open conference play.
Against Kansas State on Jan. 2, Carleton netted a game-high 26 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, one block and one steal as Iowa State prevailed 96-58. She shot 10-of-19 from the floor and the Cyclones posted the largest margin of victory in the history of the series. Iowa State knocked down 16 3-pointers, with Carleton accounting for four.
Next, Carleton dropped 33 points on the road at Kansas as Iowa State rolled to an 82-73 win. It was her eighth 30-point performance of her career. She also added six rebounds and five assists.
Her 33-point effort tied for eighth on Iowa State’s single-game scoring list. As a team, Iowa State extended its NCAA-record streak to 749 consecutive games with a 3-pointer, connecting on seven in the win.
A Chatham, Ontario, Canada native, Carleton is the Big 12's second-leading scorer at 19.6 points per game. She ranks sixth in rebounds (8.5) and seventh in assists (4.3). Iowa State (12-2, 2-0 Big 12), currently sits No. 20 in the latest AP poll.
The Cyclones return to action on Jan. 9 when it hosts TCU.
Gabby Connally, Georgia
Georgia’s Gabby Connally averaged 21 points per game, shot over 50 percent from the field (8-of-14), 73 percent from 3-point range (8-of-11) and was a perfect 100 percent from the free-throw line (8-of-8) to help Georgia start SEC play at 2-0 for the first time since 2010-11.
Georgia snapped a five-game losing streak in SEC openers with its 63-50 victory over LSU on Jan. 3 as Connally filled the box score with 13 points, seven rebounds, three steals and three assists.
Connally had a season-best 29 points at Vanderbilt on Sunday as the Lady Bulldogs prevailed 71-64. Connally, who had her best game since scoring 37 points against Texas A&M a season ago, hit 8-of-14 from the field and was a perfect 8-for-8 from the free-throw line to lead all scorers.
A sophomore guard from San Antonio, Texas, Connally is in the midst of the best stretch of her career. She has scored in double figures in seven of her last eight games, averaging just over 16 points per game.
The Lady Bulldogs (11-4, 2-0 SEC) will next travel to No. 7 Mississippi State on Jan. 10.
Natisha Hiedeman, Marquette
Marquette senior guard Natisha Hiedeman averaged 24 points per game, 6.5 rebounds, six assists and four steals per game as Marquette scored Big East wins over Creighton and DePaul.
Hiedeman led five players in double figures with 16 points in Marquette's 85-67 win over Creighton on Dec. 31.
In the first Big East women's basketball top 25 matchup since 2016, No. 20 Marquette cruised to a 96-63 victory over No. 24 DePaul on Jan. 4 at the Al McGuire Center. It marked the largest margin of victory over the Blue Demons in Marquette program history.
Hiedeman led the Golden Eagles with 32 points, eight rebounds, six assists and six steals. The 32 points was the most for a Big East player this season and tied Hiedeman's career-high mark.
The Golden Eagles (12-3, 3-0 Big East) will take to the road for the first time in a month to play Villanova Jan. 11.
Aari McDonald, Arizona
Aari McDonald, the second leading scorer in the nation, became the first player in Arizona history to record back-to-back 30-point games on the road as the Wildcats split a pair of games at Colorado and Utah. McDonald averaged 33 points, eight rebounds, five steals and three assists in the two contests on 47 percent shooting.
McDonald led Arizona to a 69-67 win over Colorado on Friday night, with 32 points and a career-high eight steals, which is the second-most any Wildcat has had in one game.
She followed that up with 34 points and 11 rebounds against Utah, with the Wildcats coming up short 80-64. McDonald had 17 points in the fourth quarter, to record the fourth-most points by an Arizona player all-time. The double-double was her second of the season.
The Fresno, California native is the nation's second-leading scorer at 25.4 points per game and has now scored at least 15 points in the first 14 games this season, becoming the only Wildcat to do so in school history. She has also scored at least 30 points four times this season.
Next up for McDonald and the Wildcats (12-2, 2-1 Pac-12) is a home game against California on Jan. 11.
Zykera Rice, Gonzaga
Named the West Coast Conference Player of the Week for the second straight week, senior Zykera Rice led Gonzaga to an undefeated week with wins over Saint Mary's and Pacific. The Tacoma, Washington native averaged 18.5 points per game shooting 55 percent from the floor to go along with 3.5 rebounds per game.
On Jan. 3 against Saint Mary's, Rice finished with 16 points and was perfect from the line (4-4) as Gonzaga outscored Saint Mary's 9-2 in the final two and a half minutes to pull away for a 74-62 win.
Saturday against Pacific, Rice helped the Bulldogs overcome an 11-point first-quarter deficit to surge past the Tigers 88-65. She finished with a game-high tying 21 points on 10-of-16 from the floor with seven rebounds, one assist, one block and one steal in 21 minutes of play. Gonzaga dominated Pacific inside, outscoring the Tigers 52-14 in the paint while nearly doubling their rebounds with a 40-21 edge on the glass.
Gonzaga, 15-1 overall and 4-0 in WCC play, will next face Portland at home on Jan. 12.