Each week throughout the season the starting five will highlight the top NCAA Division I women’s basketball performances from the previous week.
Kiah Gillespie, Florida State
Florida State remained undefeated as Kiah Gillespie averaged 20.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game in wins over No. 19 Michigan State and Clemson.
In the Big Ten/ACC Challenge win over Michigan State (78-68), Gillespie recorded 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, while Nicki Ekhomu added 15 points. They combined for 21 of the team’s 29 fourth quarter points – their highest quarter output of the season – to outscore the Spartans by 13 and seal the victory.
Gillespie followed that game with 17 points and seven rebounds in an 81-64 win at Clemson in their ACC opener.
For the week, Gillespie shot 47.8 percent from the floor and 46.2 percent (6-of-13) from beyond the arc. The double-double against Michigan State was her 17th in 41 games played at Florida State, already tying her for 10th on the school’s career list.
The Seminoles (9-0) season to date includes a pair of Top 25 wins by early December for just the second time program history. Florida State has topped Texas A&M and Michigan State, joining the 1990-91 team in accomplishing that feat.
Florida State will put their undefeated season on the line when they next host St. John’s on Sunday, Dec. 15.
Dee Givens, Western Kentucky
Dee Givens’ week included the second most points in program history (41) while leading Western Kentucky to wins over Oklahoma and Ball State.
In WKU’s 91-86 overtime win at Ball State on Saturday night. Givens poured in 41 points, breaking the Worthen Arena record that has been held for over 25 years. Givens' 41 points are tied for the second most scoring in a game by a Lady Topper, tying Natalie Powers when she scored 41 against Middle Tennessee on Feb. 1, 2001. She was just one point shy of tying the all-time record held by Crystal Kelly who scored 42 against Louisiana-Monroe on Feb. 23, 2008. It was also the third most points scored by a NCAA Division I women's basketball player this season.
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The redshirt senior was the second leading scorer for WKU with 18 points in a 74-63 win over Oklahoma on Dec. 4. It was the first Lady Topper win against a Big 12 team since 1990 when WKU defeated Texas. The Lady Toppers have now recorded a win against a team from the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, ACC or Pac 12 in five of the last six seasons. For the week, Givens averaged 29.5 points per game, shooting 42.2 percent for the week (19-of-45), connecting on nine 3-pointers and 12-of-15 from the charity stripe.
With 1,294 career points, Givens is now 23rd on WKU's all-time scoring list. Her 189 made 3-pointers are the sixth most in program history, while her 85.1 percentage at the free throw line is the best by any Lady Topper.
WKU will return to the court against Samford on Sunday, December 15.
Rhyne Howard, Kentucky
Kentucky sophomore guard Rhyne Howard averaged 29.5 points in Kentucky's wins over Charlotte and Samford.
After tying her career-high in points with 29 against Charlotte, Howard set a new career-high the following game with 30 points against the Bulldogs. Against Charlotte, Howard went 10-of-18 from the field and 7-of-8 from the free throw line, adding seven rebounds and four steals. She followed that performance by going 11-of-19 from the field and 5-of-8 from long range against Samford with six rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Relive that 30-point performance by the SEC Player of the Week through the Voice of Kentucky WBB— Kentucky WBB (@KentuckyWBB) December 10, 2019
It has been an impressive stretch lately for Howard, who has scored 20 or more points in five of her last seven games. The stretch started with 24 points against Stetson before a double-double against Virginia with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Against Morehead State and Grambling State, Howard scored 24 points against Eagles hitting five 3-pointers, while she scored 27 points against Grambling with four made 3-pointers and five rebounds. So far this season, Howard has scored 20 or more points five times.
The native of Cleveland, Tennessee, leads Kentucky by averaging 20.4 points per game and 6.2 rebounds per game, while she has hit a team-best 26 3-pointers. The guard has 23 assists and team-high 22 steals while she is second on the squad with 10 blocks. Kentucky (9-0) is currently ranked No. 14 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll and will continue its seven-game home stand on Dec. 11 vs. Winthrop and follow that game by hosting No. 7 Louisville at Rupp Arena on Sunday, Dec. 15.
Kamaria McDaniel, Penn State
Penn State junior Kamaria McDaniel recorded the third 40-point performance in program history and first since 2001 on Dec. 5 when she scored 40 points to lead Penn State to a 78-73 win over Pittsburgh in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
McDaniel's 40 points marked a Penn State record in the Bryce Jordan Center and she became the first Lady Lion to put up 40-plus points in a game since former All-American Kelly Mazzante scored a school-record 49 points at Minnesota on Dec. 28, 2001. The only other Penn State player to top 40 points was Jen Bednarek, when she posted 42 points vs. Syracuse in 1979.
McDaniel shot 50 percent (14-for-28) from the floor and was 10-for-15 from the free throw line, while also adding seven rebounds and two assists. Penn State held a slim 19-17 lead five minutes into the second quarter before McDaniel came to life in the final minutes of the half as she scored 13 points in a 3:54 span to help Penn State close the first half on a 15-5 run and take a 34-22 lead into halftime. Penn State shot 53.3 percent (8-for-15) from the field in the second quarter, while McDaniel was 6-for-9 from the floor. The Inkster, Mich. native bested her previous career high of 27 points that was set just a game ago against N.C. Central.
.@__kamaria dropped a 40 piece vs. Pitt last week and joined elite company becoming only the 3rd player to drop 40 points in @PennStateWBB history.— Penn State On BTN (@PennStateOnBTN) December 10, 2019
This performance has earned Kamaria McDaniel the B1G Player of the Week! pic.twitter.com/Ym3YSGz8nQ
Averaging 19.9 points per game, McDaniel currently leads the Big Ten and ranks 18th in the nation. She has scored in double figures in every game this season and 15-straight games dating back to last year.
McDaniel and the Lady Lions (5-4) return to action on Dec. 14 when Penn State heads to New Jersey to face Princeton.
Megan Walker, UConn
UConn remained undefeated on the season as junior Megan Walker averaged 27.5 points, nine rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks per game as the Huskies scored wins over Seton Hall and Notre Dame.
Against Seton Hall on Dec. 5, Walker poured in a game and season-high 29 points on 10-of-21 (47.6 percent) shooting, grabbed five boards and dished out three assists as the Huskies won 92-78. The Huskies trailed 28-19 after a fast-paced first quarter, but bounced back to beat the Pirates for the 31st straight time dating to 1995. Walker had 10 points in the second quarter as the Huskies took a 47-43 lead at the break. She added five points early in the third quarter to push UConn to a 61-51 lead.
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Walker followed with a 26-point, 13-rebound, four-assist and two-steal performance as UConn cruised past Notre Dame, 81-57. In the rematch of the 2019 national semifinal game won by Notre Dame, Walker hit 10 of her 18 shots as UConn never trailed, outrebounded the Irish 48-32 and had 21 second-chance points, while holding Notre Dame to just five. UConn improved to 38-13 all-time versus Notre Dame.
Walker is the only player in the American Conference averaging over 20 points per game (22.1).
After a break for finals, the No. 2 Huskies (8-0) will be back in action next Monday, Dec. 16 at DePaul.