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Rick Nixon | | December 30, 2020

Iowa freshman Caitlin Clark leads this week's Starting Five in women's basketball

Tara VanDerveer builds her ultimate Stanford women's basketball dream player

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


Florida Gulf Coast Athletics KIERSTAN BELL

Kierstan Bell of Florida Gulf Coast posted her third consecutive double-double last week as the Eagles’ win streak reached six games.

In FGCU's lone game of the week before the holiday break, Bell produced her third-consecutive double-double with 21 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks, four assists and two steals as the Eagles recorded an 80-66 win at Florida International last Monday.

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It was the third-straight game with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds for the sophomore, who has now produced five double-doubles and five games with at least 20 points in her six games since becoming eligible via a transfer waiver from Ohio State, where she played her freshman season.  Bell joins Whitney Knight as one of only two Eagles to produce three-consecutive double-doubles.

Bell currently leads the Atlantic Sun Conference in per game scoring (23.0), rebounding (11.8), field goals made (9.5) and blocks (3.3). She also ranks among the top five in field goal percentage (4th, .576) while only averaging 29 minutes of playing time per game.

FGCU (7-2) will next open conference play this Saturday and Sunday at North Alabama.


Iowa Athletics Catlin Clark

Iowa freshman Caitlin Clark was named the Big Ten Conference Player of the Week for the third time this season, registering her first career triple-double against Western Illinois on Dec. 22, tallying 13 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.

While she struggled shooting from the field, going 3 of 15, Clark made up for it in other areas against Western Illinois, adding three steals and a block to her rebounding and assist totals as Iowa defeated the Leathernecks, 92-65. Clark’s triple-double was the first from a Hawkeye since Sam Logic against Baylor (March 27, 2015) and the 10th in program history.

The 6-0 guard leads Iowa through six games with a scoring average of 27.0 points per game, which ranks her fourth in Division I currently.

Clark and the Hawkeyes (5-1) will next host Rutgers on Thursday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa.


Oklahoma State Athletics Natasha Mack

Big 12 Player of the Week, Oklahoma State's Natasha Mack scored a career-high 31 points and pulled 14 rebounds to tally her third double-double of the season as the Cowgirls defeated North Texas.

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In the 82-68 win at North Texas on Dec. 22, Mack had three assists and two blocks while knocking down a career-best 15 field goals on 24 attempts, marking the fourth time this season she has connected on at least 63 percent of her shots from the floor. The 6-4 senior forward made six of her eight attempts from the floor as part of a 13-point fourth quarter as Oklahoma State exploded for 26 points in the period to lock up its second road win of the season.

Oklahoma State, 6-2 overall and 2-0 in Big 12 play, will resume conference play on Jan. 2, hosting Texas Tech.


USC Athletics Jordan Sandders

The Pac-12 Conference leader in 3-point percentage, Jordan Sanders set new USC scoring highs for herself in back-to-back games last week as the Trojans went 2-0. The Pac-12 Player of the Week, Sanders scored 22 points against California and 23 versus Long Beach State. 

In the 77-54 win over Cal, Sanders connected on a career-high five 3-pointers in USC's first Pac-12 win of the season. The lead changed hands six times and was tied up six times in the first quarter before a Sanders 3-pointer lit the fuse on 10 straight Trojan points to kick off the second quarter to build out a 28-15 advantage from which the Trojans never looked back.

A senior, Sanders followed up her impressive outing against Cal, with 23 points and eight rebounds as USC defeated Long Beach State 71-65 on Dec. 23. In what was the first career start for the Trojans, Sanders connected on two 3-pointers, finishing her week's work averaging 70 percent from beyond the arc. That bumped her season average to 68.2 percent, keeping her solidly atop the Pac-12 leaderboard in 3-point percentage while also lifting her to fifth overall in the nation.

USC, 3-4 overall and 1-4 in Pac-12 play, will return to action at Oregon on Jan. 1.


East Carolina Athletics TANIYAH THOMPSON

East Carolina improved to 3-0 in conference play for the first time since joining the American Athletic Conference in 2014, as sophomore guard Taniyah Thompson led the way with 27 points, six rebounds and two assists in a win over Tulane on Dec. 22.  The conference start is the best for East Carolina since the 2009-10 squad won its first four Conference USA games.

Named AAC Player of the Week, Thompson connected on 11 of 19 shots from the field while scoring 27.  Included were a pair of three-point field goals to give her a team-best 11 for the season.

A unanimous selection to the AAC All-Freshman Team last season, Thompson is part of a balanced attack for East Carolina that features four players averaging in double figures this season, led by senior guard Lashonda Monk, who averages 15.3 points per game, while Thompson is second at 12.4 points per contest.

East Carolina (5-3, 3-0 AAC) returns to the court on Jan. 2 at No. 20 USF.

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