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Rick Nixon, NCAA | November 16, 2022

Mara Braun's buzzer-beating performance leads this week's Starting Five in women's basketball

South Carolina tops first in-season women's basketball Power 10 rankings

After a busy first week of the women's college basketball season, these five players stood out. Here is this week's starting five:

Mara Braun, Minnesota

Minnesota's Mara Braun

Big Ten Freshman of the Week Mara Braun of Minnesota introduced herself to the collegiate game by averaging 27.5 points per game in her first two contests, including 34 points and a buzzer-beating shot to take down Lehigh 101-99 on Sunday night. Her 27.5 points per game ranks first in the Big Ten and No. 7 nationally.

Braun's buzzer-beater with 1.7 seconds left was the first last-second winning shot for Minnesota since Feb. 26, 2016, when Carlie Wagner downed No. 5 Ohio State in overtime. Her 34 points are the second most points by a freshman in school history and are the most since Laura Coenen at Wisconsin back on Feb. 18, 1983.

Braun's week started with a 21-point performance in her collegiate debut against Western Illinois in a 74-45 win. That's tied for the third-most by a Minnesota freshman in a debut. Braun is one of two Big Ten players to score 30 or more points in a game this season and are the second most in a game only behind Monika Czinano's 36 against Drake.

Minnesota, 2-0, will next travel to North Dakota State for a Nov. 17 road contest.

Callie Cavanaugh, Fairfield

Fairfield's Callie Cavanaugh

Fairfield graduate forward Callie Cavanaugh started the season in a big way with three double-figure scoring outings that included a career-high 36 points in a season-opening win at Brown, tying for the second-most in a single game in program history.

Cavanaugh averaged 21.0 points per game during Fairfield's 1-2 week. She willed the Stags to their first win of the year by netting 19 points in the fourth quarter to help the Fairfield erase a five-point deficit in the 62-52 win at Brown on Nov. 7. She had 13 points in a 77-49 loss at Penn State on Nov. 11, and 14 points in a 68-61 loss at Yale on Nov. 14.

A Preseason All-MAAC second team selection, Cavanaugh for the week recorded 26 made field goals and shot .565 from the floor while hauling in 4.3 rebounds per game.

Cavanaugh and the Stags, 1-2, will be back in action on Nov. 18 when they host Stonehill at the brand-new Leo D. Mahoney Arena at Fairfield.

POWER RANKINGS: South Carolina leads the first Power 10 college basketball rankings of the regular season

Charlisse Leger-Walker, Washington State

Washington State's Charlisse Leger-Walker

Washington State junior Charlisse Leger-Walker averaged 25.0 points per game in helping WSU go 3-0 during the opening week of the season.

The guard from Waikato, New Zealand put on an offensive clinic during the opening week, as she scored a Pac-12 Conference-high 75 total points and shot a blistering 52 percent from the field, hitting 26 of her 50 field goal attempts. She also dished out a total of 16 assists, which was the second-most collected by a Pac-12 player last week.

It was a week to remember for Leger-Walker, as the 5-10 guard recorded a career-high 35 points in Friday's 69-63 comeback win at San Francisco on Nov. 11. She scored 26 of her points in the second half to help Washington State turn a 15-point deficit into a six-point victory.

Walker then went on to score her 1,000th career collegiate point in a 24-point performance in Sunday's 89-61 win over Prairie View A&M in the Pac-12/SWAC Legacy Series. Leger-Walker had gotten her week started with a 16-point effort in a season-opening 93-41 victory over Loyola Marymount on Nov. 7.

Washington State, 3-0, jumps back into action this Friday, Nov. 18, when the Cougars travel to Laie, Hawai'i for the Northshore Showcase and will play BYU in the first-round.

BRACKETOLOGY: Way-early March Madness women's bracket predictions for 2023

Ta’Niya Latson, Florida State

Florida State's Ta'Niya Latson

Florida State freshman guard Ta’Niya Latson completed the rare sweep of winning ACC Player and ACC Rookie of the Week after her outstanding three-game performance last week.

In three wins over Bethune-Cookman (113-50), Kent State (80-71) and Georgia State (75-70), the Miami, Fla., native averaged 27.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, shot 46 percent from the field (29-of-63), 50 percent from behind the 3-point line (7-of-14) and averaged 2.0 blocked shots per game.

Her 34 points scored in FSU’s hard-fought road win at Kent State last Thursday marked the most in a game by an FSU freshman since 1981. Her 28 points in FSU’s season opener marked the first time a freshman led the Seminoles in scoring in a season opener since WNBA All-Star Natasha Howard did it in 2010.

Currently the leading scorer in the NCAA and ACC, with 81 points, Latson also produced on the defensive end. As a guard, her six blocked shots over the first three games rank 23rd nationally.

Florida State, 3-0, continues its week with a Nov. 16 home matchup vs. rival Florida in the Fresh From Florida Sunshine Showdown.

Destinee Wells, Belmont

Belmont's Destinee Wells

Belmont junior guard Destinee Wells, the Missouri Valley Conference preseason Player of the Year, started the season strong, scoring 20 points in both the Bruins' gritty come-from-behind 56-54 opening night victory over Chattanooga and Belmont's narrow 75-70 home loss to seventh-ranked Louisville Sunday.

Wells was also at her best in the fourth quarter of each of those games, scoring 26 of her 40 points. Over the two games, Wells averaged 4.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and a steal.

The Lakeland, Tennessee native led the Bruins back from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit against visiting Chattanooga on Nov. 9. Wells' old-fashioned three-point play ignited a 13-2 Belmont run that got the Bruins back in the game. She then clinched the season-opening win by hitting a pair of clutch free throws with 24.4 seconds remaining, giving Belmont its first lead of the contest and completing the comeback. Wells also pulled down a career-high tying seven rebounds versus Chattanooga and was 7-for-7 at the free-throw line.

On Sunday against the nationally ranked Cardinals, Wells was once again magnificent in the fourth quarter where she scored 13 of her team-high 20 points. Going 7-for-10 from the field and distributing a game-high four assists, Wells put the Bruins up by four with six-and-a-half minutes to go by sinking her lone three-pointer.

Later, Wells gave Belmont its final lead of the game at 68-67 and provided the Bruins a chance in the final minute with a layup that made it a one-point game. She went 12-for-13 at the foul line in the two games.

With her 20 points Sunday against Louisville, Wells became Belmont's 33rd 1,000-point scorer. In only 58 career games, Wells has scored 1,004 points. The Bruins, 1-1, get their first road test of the season on Nov. 16 at Middle Tennessee before continuing their strenuous five-game stretch away from home at fourth-ranked Iowa Sunday.

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