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Rick Nixon | | January 6, 2021

Kentucky's Rhyne Howard leads this week's starting 5, the top players in women's basketball

Women's basketball rankings: Kentucky returns to Power 10, Oregon drops in Week 7

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:

Rhyne Howard, Kentucky

Kentucky Athletics Rhyne Howard of Kentucky women's basketball

Kentucky junior guard Rhyne Howard continues to show why she was the preseason favorite for national player of the year, leading Kentucky to back-to-back wins last week against No. 10 Arkansas and No. 12 Mississippi State. The wins for Kentucky marked the first time the program has ever beat consecutive top-15 league opponents and only the third time it has secured consecutive wins against top-15 ranked foes.

In the league opener vs. Arkansas on Dec. 31, Howard scored 24 points with 10 rebounds as the Wildcats won 75-64. The 24 points were a season high before she paced Kentucky at No. 12 Mississippi State with 33 points, adding 10 rebounds, six assists, a block and a steal as the Wildcats prevailed 92-86. Against Mississippi State on Sunday, Howard put the team on her back late in the game scoring 25 of her 33 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. In fact, Howard scored 25 of Kentucky's final 31 points in the game, including 10 of the team's 14 overtime points.

BEST TEAM: Stanford is named's Team of the Week

Howard is the first player in school history to score at least 33 points with 10 rebounds and six assists against an SEC opponent and the second player to accomplish the feat against any opponent, joining Belitta Croley. Howard also led Kentucky in assists in both games, while her eight 3-pointers made during the week moved her up to fourth all-time in program history, now with 181.
Howard leads Kentucky through 10 games in scoring at 18.8 points per game, while adding 7.3 rebounds per game. The guard leads Kentucky with 23 3-pointers made and is second on the team with 29 assists and 14 steals. In two league games, Howard is averaging 28.5 points per game with 10.0 rebounds per game and 10 assists.

Kentucky, 9-1 overall and 2-0 in SEC play, moved up to No. 10 in this week’s Associated Press top-25 poll and will next play at No. 8 Texas A&M on Jan. 7.

Bethy Mununga, South Florida

USF Athletics Bethy Mununga of USF women's basketball

South Florida senior forward Bethy Mununga averaged 17 points and 14 rebounds in leading the Bulls to a pair of wins last week, a 65-35 rout of Tulsa on Dec. 30, and a 71-58 victory over East Carolina on Jan. 2. A native of Zellik, Belgium, Mununga shot 66.7 percent (12-for-18) from the field and was 10-of-15 (66.7 percent) from the free-throw line.

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Mununga ended the 2020 calendar year with an 11-point, seven-rebound effort against Tulsa, shooting 71.4 percent (5-of-7) from the field. She then tipped 2021 off in impressive fashion with a career day against East Carolina, scoring 23 points and grabbing a career-best 21 rebounds, marking the program's eighth 20-20 game. It was her 13th career double-double at South Florida, and her fourth of the season. Mununga also became the 14th player in program history to grab 20 or more rebounds, her total is tied for the fourth most in a single game in school history and tied for the fifth most in American Athletic Conference (AAC) history.
On the year, Mununga is second on the team in scoring, averaging 10.8 points per game and paces the team on the glass, grabbing 12.0 rebounds per outing.
No. 18 South Florida, 7-1 overall and 4-0 in AAC play, returns to play on Wednesday, Jan. 6 when they host Wichita State.

Michaela Onyenwere, UCLA

UCLA Athletics Michaela Onyenwere of UCLA women's basketball

UCLA senior forward Michaela Onyenwere scored a career-high 33 points on 12-for-20 shooting from the field and 8-for-8 from the foul line and also grabbed 10 rebounds (four offensive) as the No. 11 Bruins won at No. 8 Oregon on Jan. 3, snapping the Ducks' 27-game winning streak. The loss was Oregon's first in 28 games overall, 25 in Pac-12 play and 23 at Matthew Knight Arena. The Ducks went nearly two years between losses in Eugene, since a defeat to the Bruins on Feb. 22, 2019.
UCLA (6-2, 4-2) was able to withstand a furious fourth-quarter rally by Oregon, which scored 11 straight points before Onyenwere scored what proved to be the eventual game-winning basket, putting back her own miss with 51 seconds remaining to put the Bruins ahead to stay, 73-71. Onyenwere posted her 27th-career double-double and moved past former UCLA standouts Atonye Nyingifa and Dora Dome into 14th place on the program's all-time scoring list. With the win, UCLA has defeated at least one top-10 opponent in each of the last six seasons.

RANKINGS: Kentucky returns to Power 10, Oregon drops in Week 7 | AP Poll | NET
Onyenwere is currently second in the Pac-12 Conference in scoring (18.9) and rebounding (8.4) per game, shooting 47.9 percent from the floor.  
UCLA returns home to Pauley Pavilion for a weekend pairing with the Pac-12 Mountain schools. The Bruins take on Colorado on Friday, Jan. 8 and Utah on Sunday, Jan. 10.

Ameshya Williams, Jackson State

Jackson State Athletics Ameshya Williams of Jackson State women's basketball

Jackson State senior center Ameshya Williams filled the stat sheet over the last week with 39 points, 41 rebounds and 8 blocks in two games as the Lady Tigers split games with Alabama A&M and Alabama State.
Williams started the week with 14 points, 18 rebounds and a block as Jackson State opened Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) play with a 64-56 win at Alabama A&M on Saturday, Jan. 2. It had been 298 days since the last time the Lady Tigers squared off on the hardwood with a SWAC opponent.
Jackson State then fell in a close matchup Monday by a final score of 72-70 to Alabama State, despite Williams posting career-highs with 25 points and 23 rebounds to go along with seven blocked shots and one steal. Williams also knocked down a late three-point shot to close the Lady Hornets lead to the final two points. She also went a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line.
For the season, Williams ranks fifth nationally in rebounding at 12.4 per game, while ranking in the top-15 nationally in blocks (23) and blocks per game (3.3).
Jackson State, 2-5 overall and 1-1 in SWAC play, will next return home to play Alcorn State on Saturday afternoon, Jan. 9.

Madi Williams, Oklahoma

Oklahoma Athletics Madi Williams of Oklahoma women's basketball

Oklahoma guard/forward Madi Williams scored the most points in a game by a Division I women's basketball player this season and set the school single-game scoring record as she dropped 45 points against West Virginia on Sunday.

The 45 points scored by Williams passed Oklahoma’s all-time leading scorer and current assistant coach Courtney Paris on the all-time single-game scoring list. Paris' previous record, set in 2006, was 43 points. Williams was also one-point shy of tying the Division I men's basketball 2020-21 single-game high of 46 points set by D'Moi Hodge of Cleveland State on Dec. 26.

Against West Virginia, Williams was incredibly efficient, shooting 17-for-30 (.567) from the floor, 3-for-7 (.429) from deep and 8-for-9 (.889) from the charity stripe. The junior nearly doubled her previous career-high of 26 points as she accounted for 62.5% of Oklahoma's scoring in the contest, which the Sooners dropped 90-72. She also recorded four rebounds, two assists and a steal against the Mountaineers.

Earlier in the week on Dec. 29, Williams was a key factor in Oklahoma’s 107-64 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, accounting for 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting and a .636 clip. Williams also had four rebounds and three steals in that contest.

Williams and the Sooners, 3-5 overall and 0-3 in Big 12 play, are next on the road at Texas Tech on Jan. 6.

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