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Rick Nixon | NCAA | December 2, 2020

Women's basketball: Tiana Mangakahia's triumphant return headlines NCAA.com's players of the week

Women's college basketball rankings: Louisville moves up to No. 5 in Power 10

Every week, NCAA.com's Starting Five will highlight the top women's basketball players in the country. Here are the standouts from the opening week of the 2020-21 season:

Brice Calip, Missouri State

Brice Calip

Senior guard Brice Calip earned all-tournament honors at the Gulf Coast Showcase during the season's opening weekend, leading Missouri State to a pair of wins, including scoring a career-high 26 points as the Lady Bears defeated No. 12/11 Maryland, the highest-ranked team that Missouri State has defeated since 2001.
 
Calip averaged 17 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists over three games and became the 29th member of Missouri State's 1,000-point club.
 
The reigning Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Calip began the season Friday with an efficient 10 points and five rebounds in 21 minutes in Missouri State's 74-49 victory at Atlantic Sun favorite Florida Gulf Coast.
 
The Sapulpa, Okla., native then tallied 26 points in Saturday's 81-72 victory against Maryland, as the Lady Bears rallied from a 16-point deficit late in the first half to score the win. Maryland is the highest-ranked team Missouri State has defeated since No. 5 Duke in the 2001 Sweet 16.
 
Calip then tallied 15 points, four assists and three boards in a 68-59 loss to Wake Forest on Sunday.
 
The Lady Bears (2-1), who moved up three spots to 21st in the Associated Press Poll on Monday, host Lincoln in the home opener on Dec. 7.
 
Charli Collier, Texas

Charli Collier

Texas junior post player Charli Collier had 44 points in a 106-69 victory over North Texas on Sunday, the highest single-game total for a Longhorn since 1994.  It capped an opening week for Collier where she averaged 34.5 points and 14.0 rebounds per game in two wins.
 
Over that stretch, Collier posted the fourth-highest scoring game in Texas history to go with 16 rebounds in the win over North Texas, four days after scoring 25 points with 12 boards during a 90-51 season-opening victory over SMU. Over the two games, Collier shot 73.3 percent (22-of-30) from the field.
 
Her 44-point effort marked just the sixth 40-point game by any player in Texas program history and was the first for a Longhorn since Danielle Viglione established the program record with 48 points against Houston on Jan. 29, 1994. For the week, Collier registered her 17th and 18th career doubles-doubles, despite averaging just 26.5 minutes over the two games, scored more than 20 points in consecutive games for the first time in her career, grabbed a team-high 28 total rebounds (13 offensive) and went 23-for-24 (95.8%) from the free throw line.
 
Collier, an All-Big 12 first-team selection who averaged 13.1 points and 10.5 rebounds last season, had a previous career high of 28 points, set last season against UTSA.
 
Collier and Texas are slated to return to action on Wed., Dec. 2, when they host Louisiana Tech.
 
Naz Hillmon, Michigan

Naz Hillmon

Michigan junior forward Naz Hillmon averaged 30.5 points and 9.0 rebounds per game with a .737 field-goal percentage and a double-double to help No. 25/24 Michigan to eclipse 90 points in both games last week in wins over Central Michigan and Oakland.
 
Behind a 26-point, 11-rebound double-double from Hillmon and double-digit scoring from all five of its starters, Michigan rolled to a 93-75 victory over Central Michigan on Nov. 25.
 
Hillmon then scored a career-high 35 points (most by a Big Ten student-athlete this season) and grabbed seven rebounds in 29 minutes of a 95-62 win at Oakland on Nov. 27. Oakland had no answer for Hillmon in the first quarter as she netted 19 points on the way to securing the second 30-point performance of her career (30 vs. Iowa on Feb. 2, 2020). The junior's 35 points rank tied for 12th all-time in a single game in Michigan women's basketball history.
 
Named Preseason Big Ten Co-Player of the Year by the coaches, as well as Preseason All-Big Ten by the coaches and media, Hillmon is currently on the Katrina McClain Award, the Wade Trophy and Naismith Trophy watch lists.
 
Michigan will continue non-conference action on Dec. 3, heading to Notre Dame to face the Fighting Irish.
 
Tiana Mangakahia, Syracuse 

Tiana Mangakahia

Graduate student Tiana Mangakahia celebrated her return to the court for the first time since her cancer diagnosis to lead Syracuse to a 50-39 victory at Stony Brook on Sunday, the Orange’s 14th consecutive season-opening victory.
 
The point guard led all scorers with 16 points and had seven rebounds, four steals, three assists and a block. Mangakahia and senior Kiara Lewis accounted for 24 of Syracuse's 50 points in a game that Syracuse led for all 40 minutes. The Orange opened up a 10-2 lead five minutes into the game and held a 13-7 lead after the first quarter and never looked back. Mangakahia scored seven points in the early run. Syracuse's 50 points marks the fewest points in a victory since a 45-42 Orange win against Villanova in 2005.
 
An honorable mention Associated Press All-America player following her junior season in 2018-19, Mangakahia was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 18, 2019, underwent a successful double mastectomy on Nov. 6 and sat out the entire 2019-20 season.

The Orange will next host Lincoln in the 2020-21 home opener on Dec. 2.
 
Iimar'i Thomas, Cincinnati

Iimar'i Thomas

Cincinnati senior forward IImar'I Thomas, the American Athletic Conference Co-Preseason Player of the Year, put together a standout performance in the season opener against Northern Kentucky on Nov. 25, tallying 34 points, seven rebounds and six assists in leading the Bearcats to a 73-67 overtime victory.
 
Thomas poured in 28 of her 34 points after intermission, including 13 points in overtime. She shot 14 of 23 from the floor after halftime, including a 3-pointer with 3:33 left in overtime that gave the Bearcats a 64-57 lead to help lock up the win. It marked the third time this calendar year that Thomas has scored 30 or more points in a game. She netted 32 points against UCF on Jan. 12, 2020 before posting a career-best 35 points against Houston on Jan. 22, 2020.
 
As a junior, Thomas earned WBCA Honorable Mention All-American honors, averaging 18.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 blocks per game and joined the program’s 1,000-point club, finishing the season ranked 13th on the list with 1,356 career points.
 
Cincinnati next plays at Florida on Saturday, Dec. 5.

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