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Rick Nixon | | January 22, 2020

Women's basketball: South Dakota's Ciara Duffy leads 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.

Ciara Duffy, South Dakota

South Dakota senior guard Ciara Duffy averaged 20.5 points and 9.5 rebounds, as the Coyotes scored a pair of wins last week and vaulted to No. 18 in the latest USA Today Women's Basketball Coaches Poll — the highest ranking the school has ever received in a national top-25 poll.

South Dakota is also ranked 24th in the Associated Press Top-25 this week. It marks the fourth week this season the Coyotes have landed in the AP Top 25. The Coyotes ran past a pair of Summit League foes last week, defeating North Dakota State 80-36 on the road and South Dakota State, 83-48 at home.

Against North Dakota State, Duffy led the way with 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting. She also grabbed eight boards, handed out three assists and registered three steals.

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South Dakota came out firing on all cylinders to handily defeat in-state rival South Dakota State as Duffy recorded her fifth double-double of the season with 21 points and 11 boards. She also handed out four assists. It marked Duffy's eighth 20-point game of the season.

Next up for South Dakota (17-2, 6-0 Summit League) are a pair of home Summit games. The Coyotes host Purdue Fort Wayne on Friday and Oral Roberts on Sunday.

Alex Fowler, Portland

Freshman forward Alex Fowler averaged 26 points and eight rebounds, shot 65 percent from the field and went a perfect 3-for-3 on three-pointers, as Portland swept their West Coast Conference road trip with wins at San Francisco and Santa Clara.

Fowler exploded for 35 points in Portland’s 80-77 win at Santa Clara. Her 35 points against the Broncos are the most scored by a Pilot since Jasmine Wooton went off for 36 points in 2013, and she's the first Pilot to score at least 30 points since Cassandra Brown in 2015. Fowler hit 16 of 22 shots, connected on both of her three-pointers and added a team-best seven rebounds.

On Jan. 16, Fowler scored 17 points and corralled nine boards as the Pilots topped the Dons, 73-66. At 4-3 in the West Coast Conference, the Pilots are off to their best start in league play since also going 4-3 in 2009-10. It's also the first West Coast Conference weekend road sweep for the Pilots since that same 2009-10 season, and it's the first time they've won three straight conference road games since 2008-09.

SCOREBOARD: Find the live stats, scores and schedule here

A native of Townsville, Australia, Fowler leads the West Coast Conference in scoring with a 17.4 points-per-game mark.

The Pilots (11-7, 4-3 West Coast) host Loyola Marymount (Jan. 23) and Pepperdine (Jan. 25) this week.

Stella Johnson, Rider

Senior guard Stella Johnson recorded a pair of double-doubles last week, as Rider defeated Marist and Siena to remain undefeated in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) play. Johnson averaged 21 points, 10 rebounds and over two assists per game in the wins over the Red Foxes and Saints. She shot over 51 percent (16-of-31) from the field.

She opened the week with 28 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two steals in a 76-72 overtime victory at Marist.  Johnson knocked down 11-of-22 from the field. It was her fourth game this season hitting 11 or more shots from the field. No other player in the MAAC has more than one such game.

Johnson followed that up with 14 points, 10 rebounds and three assists in a 70-66 win over Siena.

Rider has now won 12 of its first 14 games for the first time since the 1993-94 season. It is just the second time since joining Division I after the 1981-82 campaign that the Broncs have started 12-2.

Johnson currently leads the MAAC and all of Division I in scoring with 26.8 points per game. All three of her double-doubles this year have come in MAAC play.

Rider (12-2, 5-0 MAAC) will next travel to play at Canisius on Jan. 23.

Alissa Pili, Southern California 

Southern California unexpectedly put an end to crosstown rival UCLA’s undefeated season, as freshman forward Alissa Pili scored 19 points and pulled down a career-high 17 rebounds and connected on the game-winning basket with 29 seconds left for the Trojans' 70-68 victory over the No. 7 Bruins.

Pili's three-point play in the final stretch of double overtime was the difference in USC's win, which was the Trojans' first over a top-10 opponent since 2017. The victory also snapped a five-game losing skid for USC, while also putting a stop to UCLA's claim as the only undefeated team in the nation. Pili recorded her sixth double-double of the year along with her 11th game scoring in double figures. In the second five-minute overtime alone, Pili had six points and four rebounds to help anchor USC's comeback from a six-point deficit to victory.

RECAP: How USC handed No. 7 UCLA its first loss with 70-68 double OT decision

Pili leads USC in scoring average this season at 12.9 points per game, shooting 48.3 percent from the field.

USC (9-8, 1-5 Pac-12) stays home this week for the next set of Pac-12 foes. On Friday (Jan. 24), the Trojans take on Washington State (Jan. 26) and host Washington on Sunday.

Kristen Spolyar, Butler

Butler senior Kristen Spolyar averaged 27.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game in contests vs. Marquette and DePaul, while moving to 10th on the Butler all-time scoring list with 1,346 career points.

Spolyar reached the 30-point mark for the second time this season with a game-high 30 points along with nine rebounds in Friday's 61-55 win over Marquette. Spolyar was the driving force behind the Butler offense early, scoring eight of Butler's 10 first quarter points and 23 of Butler's first 25 points. Spolyar accounted for 10 of the 11 made field goals by Butler after 20 minutes, leading the Bulldogs to a 29-25 lead at the half.

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On Sunday against No. 14 DePaul, Spolyar scored a game-high 25 points while pulling down 12 rebounds, as Butler lost 80-65.

For the week, she shot .594 from the field and .444 from deep.

Butler (12-6, 4-3 Big East) will hit the road next weekend with games slated at Providence (Jan. 24) and Creighton (Jan. 26).

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