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The Weekly Roundup: December 21
Tara at the Top, transfers, and a classic Geno-ism
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Stanford is used to being on top — two NCAA championships, 22 Pac-12 championships, 12 Final Four appearances, and six seasons with a No. 1 AP ranking — and head coach Tara VanDerveer has been there for all of it. In passing legendary Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt for most wins in women’s Division I basketball history with 1,099, VanDerveer claims a record that once seemed far out of reach.
Stanford has done an amazing job at honoring VanDerveer’s unbelievable accomplishment throughout the week by creating and sharing videos and articles on social media reminding everyone of their leader’s monumental success.
A homepage for everything #TaraAtTheTop, including videos, pictures, congratulations messages, and her career accolades.
Everyone’s favorite Tara-isms.
The Best Upsets
DePaul upsets Kentucky (86-82) — DePaul finally got its coveted ranked win, and it came against a top ten team. Kentucky won the battle on the boards, but a crucial offensive rebound and subsequent free throws by DePaul’s Deja Church put the Blue Demons up five with 25 seconds to play, essentially sealing the game. Kentucky head coach Kyra Elzy credited the loss to poor defense and allowing too many layups and back door cuts. DePaul only had six three three-pointers, but had five players score in double digits. The Wildcats had been successful from the perimeter, but were shut down by the Blue Demons and shot 6-of-24 (25%). Rhyne Howard was held to just 2-for-8 from three.
Tennessee upsets Indiana (66-58) — Tennessee dominated the boards 51-38. That’s largely because of Rennia Davis, who had her best game of the season. She led the team with 19 points and 15 rebounds. Indiana, who hadn’t played since a loss to Kentucky 11 days earlier, only shot 2-of-27 from three and had a season-low four assists.
North Carolina upsets Syracuse (92-68) — Offense was no problem for the Tar Heels as three players scored more than 20 points and the team shot 46.9% from the floor. Syracuse had a dismal night and had season-lows in shooting (29.3% from the floor), assists (five), and rebounds (43). Janelle Bailey led North Carolina with 25 points, eight rebounds, two assists, and two steals, and Emily Engstler led the Orange from off the bench with 18 points, 10 rebounds, and three steals.
HHS Top 25
NC State (8-0)
South Carolina (5-1)
Mississippi State (5-1)
Texas A&M (8-0)
Ohio State (4-0)
South Dakota State (5-2)
South Florida (3-1)
Missouri State (4-2)
By The Numbers
The NCAA Division I Council approved a blanket waiver that will allow transfers to play immediately this year on Dec. 16. While most transfers already had their waiver requests approved, there were a few players who previously had their waivers denied. Jenn Hatfield wrote about ten transfers who could make a big impact for their teams back in July, and a few of them have already turned into key playmakers.
This week, I took a look at some transfers who are making a notable difference for their new teams. All stats are from Her Hoop Stats’ reSEARCH tool.
Destiny Slocum, Arkansas (from Oregon State) – Arkansas had a wealth of scorers before adding grad transfer Slocum, who has settled into her third team with no problems. She is the second-leading scorer on an impressive Arkansas offense that has won eight games, including a five-point victory over Baylor. She’s shooting 50 percent from the field and is averaging a career-high 4.1 rebounds per game.
2020 stats: 16.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.6 APG, 28.4 minutes per game, 22.5% usage rate
Kianna Smith, Louisville (from California) – Smith is Louisville’s third-leading scorer and one of the Cardinals’ most reliable shooters. While her three games are a small sample size, she seems to have already taken a giant leap in her shooting efficiency. She last played for Cal during the 2018-2019 season and averaged 9.8 points while shooting 39.9% from the field and 35% behind the arc. This season, she’s averaging 15.3 points per game and shooting 55.9% from the floor. Her three-point percentage has improved to 50%, and she leads the team with 2.7 threes made per game.
2020 stats: 15.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 23.5 minutes per game, 22.1% usage rate
Katie Benzan, Maryland (from Harvard) – The three-time First Team All-Ivy honoree has been a great addition for Maryland’s offense and has provided veteran leadership to a young team. (Benzan and fellow transfer Chloe Bibby are the only seniors.) Her 4.3 three-pointers made per game ranks fifth in the nation, and she’s been smart with her shot selection. She’s hitting 57.9% from the floor and 55.3% from deep, which has helped Maryland space the floor. The Terps have been an offensive menace to other teams this year; they rank in the top ten in effective field goal percentage (57.7%) and points per scoring attempt (1.21) and are currently second in points per game (97.5).
2020 stats: 17.0 PPG, 2.3 APG, 1.0 SPG, 30.8 minutes per game, 16.7% usage rate
Kierstan Bell, FGCU (from Ohio State) – The FGCU Eagles’ leading scorer missed the first two games of the Gulf Coast Showcase while waiting for her transfer waiver to go through. Her season debut came against Davidson, where she put up the country’s first 20-20 game of the season with 24 points and 20 rebounds, and then followed up with another double-double game against Temple. FGCU hasn’t lost a game since Bell joined the lineup, largely because of her ability to produce shots from anywhere on the floor. She’s putting up six two-pointers and three treys a game all while shooting 55% from the floor. Bell’s shown up on the defensive end, too. She leads the team with 10.0 defensive rebounds (second in the nation), 2.3 blocks, and 1.7 steals per game.
2020 stats: 21.2 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 2.8 APG, 3.2 BPG in 29.8 minutes per game, 32.2% usage rate
Shakira Austin, Ole Miss (from Maryland) – The junior is making a quiet impact for an undefeated Rebels team that looks nothing like last year’s worst team in the SEC. The team already has a Power 5 win against Kansas, something they didn’t accomplish all of last season, and has been one of the country’s best defensive teams so far. The Rebels have held their opponents to 48.3 points per game on 28.1% shooting (second in the country), and they rank sixth in steals per game. Austin is a large part of that with 2.3 blocks and 1.5 steals per game. She leads the team in defensive win shares and has the best defensive rating on the team.
2020 stats: 17.8 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.3 BPG, 24.3 minutes per game, 32.2% usage rate
Games To Watch
The NCAA holiday break will run Wednesday, Dec. 23 through Saturday, Dec. 26, but there is one ranked Pac-12 matchup on the calendar. Most teams will also dive into conference play after the break if they haven’t already done so.
Stanford at UCLA Monday, Dec. 21 at 3 p.m. ET (Lobo’s Look)
What We’re Working On
Gabe Ibrahim wrote about how the NCAA’s “free year” is affecting the WNBA draft.
Christy Winters-Scott and Gabe Ibrahim talked Tara at the top and Pat Summit, the Pac-12, and UConn in episode 18 of Courtside.
A special edition of Unplugged featured a WNBA mock free agency roundtable. Megan Gauer represented all 144 players and our panel of guests each served as general manager for two teams. Listen to the full episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or read our recap of the tranactions. Be on the lookout for more commentary on our mock free agency before the holiday!
Other Recommended Reading
For The Athletic, Lyndsey D’Arcangelo profiled sophomore Buffalo guard Dyaisha Fair, who was the fourth-leading scorer in Division I as a freshman and recorded Buffalo’s first triple-double since 2001 on Dec. 13.
For FiveThirtyEight, Howard Megdal broke down how the Oregon Ducks have kept rolling after watching their three best players move on to the WNBA.
And if you’re still thinking about Fran Belibi’s dunk against California (at least I am), revisit this spectacularly written feature from Katie Barnes about the now-sophomore (published for ESPN in March 2019).
Before You Go
A 12-point second quarter performance against Creighton on Dec. 17 resulted in a classic Geno halftime interview where he called his squad the “worst shooting team in America.”
The “worst shooting team in America” is actually the best shooting team in the country right now, despite what Geno says, averaging 57.1% from the floor as well as a 61.9 effective field goal percentage. In the Huskies’ game against Xavier on Saturday, they were on pace to reach record field goal percentage territory after ending the first half hitting 75% of their shots. They ended the game connecting on a season-high 63.8% of their shots but showed major improvement on the perimeter. UConn only averaged four treys through its first three games on 28.7% shooting (still not the worst in America) but knocked down 10-of-18 against Xavier.