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Rick Nixon | | January 15, 2020

Women's basketball: Cal State Northridge's De'Jionae Calloway headlines this week's starting five

Women's basketball: Buzzer-beating 3-pointers highlight this week's top plays

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

De'Jionae Calloway, Cal State Northridge

Cal State Northridge Athletics CSUN's De’Jionae Calloway

Cal State Northridge started out Big West Conference play 2-0 for the first time since the 2012-13 season as senior De’Jionae Calloway averaged 19.0 points, 13.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocked shots per game to help the Matadors upend Hawai‘i (58-54) and UC Irvine (70-62) at home.

Calloway notched her fifth and sixth double-doubles of the season to lead the Matadors. She scored 22 points to go along with 12 boards in the win over Hawai‘i before posting 16 points and 14 caroms against UC Irvine. She played 36 minutes in both games. The 6-foot forward made 10-of-20 floor shots and had three blocks with a steal against the Rainbow Wahine in helping the Matadors overcome any early 12-point first half deficit.  It was her fifth 20-point game of the season. Against UC Irvine, Calloway added two assists and a pair of steals. 

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This is only the third time since CSUN joined the Big West in 2001 that the Matadors are 2-0 to begin the league slate. In 2012-13, CSUN would go 4-0 to begin league play. In 2004-05, the Matadors won their first three Big West games. 

Saturday's victory was the fourth in a row for the Matadors and is the first time CSUN has won four in a row since the Matadors won all four games of the 2018 Big West Tournament, resulting in CSUN's third conference tournament title.

CSU (7-9 and 2-0) will next host Cal State Fullerton on Jan. 16.

Rhyne Howard, Kentucky

Kentucky Athletics Kentucky's Rhyne Howard

For a second consecutive week, Kentucky sophomore Rhyne Howard has earned a Starting Five position.  The most recent honor comes after Howard tied the school record for scoring in a game with 43 points last Thursday at Alabama.

Howard was impressive in Kentucky's 81-71 win against the Crimson Tide, going 14-of-21 from the field, 7-of-11 from deep and 8-of-13 from the free-throw line with six rebounds and five assists.

Her strong performance made her the first player in program history to score 25 or more points in five straight games, and the first player in program history to have 37 or more points in consecutive games after she had 37 against Tennessee the first week of January. The guard's 43 points were the most ever by a Kentucky player in an SEC game and the third most by any player in the NCAA this season.

She connected on seven 3-pointers against Alabama, which tied the program record for three’s made in a game and she became the first player in program history to hit seven or more in consecutive games after also hitting seven against Tennessee on Jan. 8. The seven three’s by Howard were part of 16 3-pointers made by Kentucky against Alabama, setting a new school record.

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Howard ended the week by leading Kentucky in scoring against Florida with 22 points, going 8-of-14 from the field and 6-of-6 from the free throw line with six rebounds as the Wildcats prevailed 65-45.

On the season, Howard is averaging 23.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, including a team-high 36 assists. Howard's 381 points this season ranks first in the nation while her points per game mark is third nationally and first in the league. Howard has scored 20 or more points in 11 games this season, leading Kentucky in scoring 13 times this season.  For her career, Howard has 906 points, needing just 94 more to join Kentucky's 1,000-point club.

Kentucky (14-2, 3-1 SEC) is currently ranked No. 11 in the Associated Press Top 25 and will return to action Thursday vs. Texas A&M, before traveling to LSU on Sunday.

NaLyssa Smith, Baylor

Baylor Athletics Baylor's NaLyssa Smith

Baylor sophomore NaLyssa Smith was instrumental as the Lady Bears continued to roll with victories over UConn and Oklahoma State.

Playing on the national stage last Thursday, Smith scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a 74-58 win over No. 1 UConn. She was 9-of-13 from the floor and scored 10 consecutive points in the fourth quarter as a part of Baylor's 15-0 run that helped the Lady Bears defeat a No. 1-ranked team for the second-straight season.

Using a dominant fourth quarter that included a decisive 15-0 run, Baylor pulled away late and defeated the top-ranked Huskies before a crowd of 12,415, snapping UConn’s 98-game home-court winning streak in the process. UConn, which also suffered its first loss of the season, had not dropped a home game since falling to Notre Dame, 73-72, on Jan. 5, 2013, at its campus arena in Storrs.

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Smith built on her performance Sunday in Baylor's Big 12 opener with Oklahoma State as she poured career highs in both points and rebounds with 30 and 15, respectively in the Lady Bears' 94-48 victory.

For the week, Smith shot .636 from the floor for the week, bringing her season's field goal percentage to .605, which ranks 14th in the nation and second in the Big 12 Conference.

With the wins, Baylor (13-1 and 2-0) also moved up to No. 2 in the latest Associated Press poll. The Lady Bears have been ranked in the AP Top 25 poll for 310 straight weeks and in the top 10 for 102 straight weeks.

Baylor goes back on the road to face Kansas on Wednesday before returning home to host No. 19 West Virginia in a top-20 showdown next Saturday.

IImar'I Thomas, Cincinnati

Cincinnati Athletics Cincinnati's IImari's Thomas

Cincinnati junior forward IImar'I Thomas led the Bearcats to a pair of American Athletic Conference wins, averaging 27.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 80 percent shooting from the field last week.

First, Thomas notched a double-double of 23 points and 14 rebounds in a 73-66 road win last Wednesday at Memphis. Paced by Thomas, the Bearcats scored 32 points in the paint, got out on the fast break for 12 points, outrebounded the home team 39-38, and turned 13 offensive rebounds into 10 second-chance points. 

She followed with a career-high 32 points on 12-of-13 shooting from the field and 8-of-8 from the free-throw line -- as well as a game-high eight rebounds to go along with four assists -- in an 81-64 home victory Sunday vs. UCF.  In a matchup of two teams both picked in the preseason to finish third in the league, the Bearcats jumped on the Knights early and never looked back.   

FULL COURT: Live scoreboard, stats for every women's basketball game

On the season, Thomas is averaging team bests of 20.4 points and 8.6 rebounds. Her season scoring average is second-best in the AAC, while her points average during conference play (26.0 points per game) is tops in the league. In addition, her rebounding average on the season ranks seventh in the conference, while her 60.8 percent field-goal percentage is best in The American.

Furthermore, her 82.1 percent shooting from the free-throw line in 2019-20 sits in second in the league, while her 3.8 offensive rebounds each time out ranks third. Nationally, her 129 made field goals on the season is fifth-best and her points total (327) is seventh.

Cincinnati (11-5 and 2-1) will be back on the road Saturday, Jan. 18 when it travels to New Orleans to take on the Tulane Green Wave.

Rachel Thompson, Colgate

Colgate Athletics Colgate's Rachel Thompson

Colgate’s Rachel Thompson enjoyed quite the week, recording the first triple-double in program history and then topping the career 1,000-point plateau as the Raiders scored a pair of wins over Loyola and Navy, improving to 11-4, the best record through 15 games in program history.

In a 76-74 win over Loyola on Jan. 8, Thompson scored 10 of her season-high 25 points in the crucial fourth quarter to help Colgate rally to the win.  During the game, Thompson became the 15th member of Colgate's 1,000-Point Club in the Division I era.

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She went completely into uncharted territory on Sunday at home against Navy, recording the program's first triple-double. Thompson scored 20 points to go with 10 rebounds and a career-high 10 assists in Colgate's 80-55 thumping of Navy.

For the week, Thompson averaged 22.5 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, shooting 64.3 percent (18-of-28) from the floor, 3-of-6 from 3-point range and 6-of-7 at the free throw line.

Colgate is off to a 3-1 start in conference play that is the best since the debut season of the Patriot League back in 1991, when the Raiders opened 4-0.  The Raiders return to action on Wednesday against Lafayette.

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