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Rick Nixon | | November 20, 2019

Michigan State's Nia Clouden leads this week's starting 5 of the top players in college basketball

Buzzer-beaters and a loose shoe highlight this week's top plays in women's basketball

Each week throughout the season the Starting Five will highlight the top NCAA Division I women’s basketball performances from the previous week. 

Nia Clouden, Michigan State

Michigan State sophomore guard Nia Clouden was instrumental as the Spartans scored the program's first win over Notre Dame in South Bend since 2004, and the first victory by a Big Ten school over the Fighting Irish since 2009.

Clouden scored a career-high 28 points in the Spartans' 72-69 win over No. 15 Notre Dame on Nov. 14. She got off to a fast start, making her first four 3-pointers in the first quarter. She closed out the game strong as well, scoring six points in the final 10 minutes. For the game, she was 9-for-21 from the field and 4-for-9 from long range. She also added three steals, three rebounds and her first block of the season. 

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She currently leads the Spartans in scoring, averaging 19.3 points, scoring in double figures twice this season. She also leads the team in steals, averaging 3.3 per game.

After the win against Notre Dame, the Spartans moved up to No. 15 in the latest Associated Press top-25 poll this week. Michigan State, 3-0, will open a two-game homestand against Oakland on Tuesday, Nov. 19.

Aari McDonald, Arizona

Arizona'a Aari McDonald

Junior guard Aari McDonald capped of her historic week with a 44-point performance in a road win against No. 22 Texas, which is the new Arizona single-game scoring record and also tied the Frank Erwin Center record for most points by an opposing player.

McDonald averaged 34 points per game on 79 percent shooting in Arizona's two wins over Texas and Chicago State.

In the game against Texas on Nov. 17, the Longhorns had no answer for the nation's top returning scorer as she shot 14-18 from the field and made all 14 of her free throw attempts. Her 44-point effort is the second-most scored by any Division I player this season. McDonald also became the first Pac-12 player to score 40 in a game since Washington's Amber Melgoza scored 40 in February during the 2017-18 season.

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McDonald now has three of the top five scoring performances in school history and is 20th on the Arizona all-time scoring list. She is currently the Pac-12's leading scorer and is the nation's sixth-leading scorer at 25.3 points per game.

In the 82-50 road win earlier in the week over Chicago State, McDonald led the way with 24 points, connecting on 9-11 shots from the floor and all six of her free throws.

Arizona, 4-0, will next host Prairie View A&M on Nov. 20.

Jade Phillips, Charlotte

Charlotte is off to its best team start since 2011-12, winning its first four games as senior guard Jade Phillips is leading the way.

Phillips averaged a double-double of 19.0 points and 13.0 rebounds, on 62.1 percent shooting, as the 49ers swept in-state road games at Wake Forest on Nov. 15 and at East Carolina on Sunday. 

The redshirt senior posted a double-double in each contest, including team highs of 21 points and 12 boards against the Demon Deacons in the 77-65 victory which snapped an eight-game skid to the Atlantic Coast Conference school and give the Niners their first victory in the series since 1993.  Phillips connected on 10-of-17 of her shots from the field.  It was her eighth career game with at least 20 points.  She collected 10 of her 12 boards on the defensive glass against Wake Forest.

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Less than 48 hours later, Phillips poured in 17 points and grabbed a team season-high 14 rebounds for another double-double in the 59-47 win at ECU.  Her 14 rebounds were one shy of her career best, with nine coming off the defensive glass.

On the season, Phillips has three double-doubles in four games, giving her 11 in her career, and is averaging 17.5 points and 11.8 rebounds thus far while shooting 33-of-60 (55.0 percent) this season from the floor.  She is one of 15 players tied for second nationally with three double-doubles, one behind Western Carolina's Jewel Smalls for the top spot.

Charlotte returns to the court on Nov. 24 when it plays host to Fordham.

Alexa Willard, Missouri State

Missouri State's Alexa Willard

Missouri State senior guard Alexa Willard earned WNIT all-tournament honors after averaging 25 points per game on 54 percent shooting at Oklahoma and No. 7 Oregon State, as the Lady Bears improved to 4-1 on the season and began receiving votes in the latest Associated Press top-25 poll.

On Nov. 14 at Oklahoma, Willard poured in 29 points on 12-of-21 shooting and 3-for-6 from deep, adding six rebounds to help the Lady Bears overcome a 20-point deficit for a 96-90 win over the Sooners.  Willard had 16 third quarter points as Missouri State overcame a 46-26 second quarter deficit to score the victory in Norman, Okla., scoring the programs 13th straight road win.

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In Sunday's Preseason WNIT final at No. 7 Oregon State, the senior netted a game-high 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting, adding a steal and two boards in a hard-fought 80-69 loss to the Beavers.

For the week, Willard went 20-37 from the field, knocked down 4-of-8 shots from beyond the arc and went 6-for-6 at the foul line with eight total rebounds in the two games.  Willard is currently averaging 21.2 points in five games and leads the nation with 44 field goals on the year.

The Lady Bears return to action Nov. 22, with a home game against Santa Clara.

Nausia Woolfolk, Florida State

Florida State senior guard Nausia Woolfolk recorded back-to-back 20-point games for the second time in her career, scoring 22 points in a win over Jacksonville and 23 points against Samford as the Seminoles improved to 4-0 on the season.

Woolfolk’s performance in an 88-59 win over Samford on Nov. 17 included her second career double-double, but her first by way of points and rebounds. In addition to her 23 points against the Bulldogs, she added a career-high 12 rebounds.

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In Florida State’s two victories last week, Woolfolk led the Seminoles in points, steals (6), rebounds (14), field goals made (18) and 3-pointers made (5), connecting on 5-of-6 from beyond the arc.  She went 9-of-14 from the field in each game.

Woolfolk now leads Florida State in scoring this season at 16.8 points per game.

The Seminoles next travel to Chicago to play UIC on Nov. 23.

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