The Weekly Roundup: Princeton’s Top-25 Win, Teisha Hyman’s Near Quadruple-Double, and Paige Bueckers’ Injury
Recapping the upsets, jaw-dropping performances, and other stories that grabbed last week’s headlines
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Welcome to December! From upsets to near quadruple-doubles (yes, you read that correctly) and WNBA coaching changes, it was an eventful week in women’s basketball. There’s no time to waste, so let’s take a lightning-fast look at the top stories this past week.
Yesterday, we learned that the coaches of two WNBA playoff teams will not return next season. The New York Liberty announced that coach Walt Hopkins and the organization have mutually agreed to part ways. Hopkins compiled a 14-40 record during his two-year tenure with the Liberty, which included a playoff berth this season. A few hours later, the Phoenix Mercury released a similar statement, explaining that it would not be renewing the contract of coach Sandy Brondello. Brondello amassed a 150-108 record during her eight seasons with Phoenix, qualified for the WNBA playoffs every year, reached the WNBA Finals twice (last season and 2014), and led the Mercury to a WNBA title in 2014. From who the most likely successors are for each job to interpreting players’ reactions to the news, there’s a lot to unpack in each situation. Stay tuned for more on these stories from the Her Hoop Stats team later this week.
In college basketball news, Paige Bueckers suffered a non-contact knee injury in the final minute of Connecticut’s 73-54 win over then-No. 24 Notre Dame. An MRI will be conducted in the next few days to conclusively diagnose the injury. Preliminary exams indicate it may be a hyperextended knee. Whether you agree with the decision to keep her in the game or not, let’s all hope Bueckers’ injury is of the less serious variety.
In one of the more eye-catching results last week, Duke walloped then-AP No. 9 Iowa 79-64. While Caitlin Clark finished with a game-high 22 points, the Blue Devils limited her to 9-for-27 shooting from the field, including an uncharacteristic 1-for-13 from behind the arc. Freshman guard Shayeann Day-Wilson came off the bench and led Duke with 19 points while also contributing four rebounds, four steals, and four assists. Junior guard Celeste Taylor added a 17-point, 12-rebound double-double.
Audiences were treated to a battle of All-American post players, as Indiana’s Mackenzie Holmes faced off against NC State’s Elissa Cunane. While Holmes led all scorers with 24 points, it was Cunane’s Wolfpack that came away with the 66-58 victory in a tight contest that saw neither team grab a double-digit lead until the final minute. Sophomore Diamond Johnson led NC State with 19 points in 29 minutes of action off the bench. Kayla Jones added a 17-point, 11-rebound double-double, and Cunane chipped in 11 points.
In addition to Duke’s signature win over Iowa, six other unranked teams knocked off top-25 competition this past week (LSU, Princeton, UC Davis, Texas-Arlington, Georgia Tech, and Syracuse). While there’s not enough time to dive into each one, let’s take a closer look at one of these upsets. It was a clash between the No. 2 and No. 8-ranked teams in CollegeInsider.com’s mid-major top-25.
Game of the week: Meyers turnaround jumper propels Princeton to top-25 win
The date was January 5, 1978. Jimmy Carter was president; Close Encounters of the Third Kind was the number one movie at the box office; and the Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love” topped the music charts. It was also the last time Princeton defeated a top-25 team when the Tigers knocked off No. 18 Rutgers. The near-44-year wait is over, as Princeton knocked off then-No. 22 Florida Gulf Coast 58-55 in a battle showcasing two of the country’s best mid-major programs last Wednesday.
FGCU had trouble finding its offensive rhythm in the early going, committing as many turnovers (five) as made field goals in the first quarter. The Eagles broke out of the funk with an 11-0 run that spanned the first and second quarters, giving them a 19-12 lead. FGCU senior guard Tishara Morehouse played a crucial role during the spurt, assisting on or scoring nine of her team’s 11 points.
Princeton responded with a run of its own, scoring 12 unanswered points and turning a seven-point deficit into a five-point advantage, 24-19, late in the second quarter. Tigers junior guard Grace Stone scored eight of her career-high 17 points during this timeframe, bookending the 12-0 surge with a pair of threes.
After an Ellie Mitchell layup gave Princeton a 50-44 edge with 3:31 remaining in the fourth quarter, it appeared as though the Tigers had taken the lead for good. FGCU had other ideas. A layup off a hesitation dribble by last season’s Becky Hammon Mid-Major Player of the Year Kierstan Bell, a Tyra Cox triple, and a backdoor pass from Morehouse to Bell for another layup resulted in a 7-0 run and a 51-50 advantage for the Eagles.
The two squads would exchange the lead three times in the final two minutes alone. A pair of Cox free throws knotted the game up at 55 with 40.7 seconds left. After a Princeton timeout advanced the ball past half-court, Abby Meyers dribbled off a high-post screen down to the block, faked right, turned left, and launched a fadeaway jumper with 17.3 seconds on the clock. Swish. The ensuing FGCU possession resulted in a turnover; Princeton hit one of two free throws; and the Eagles failed to get a late-second game-tying three off before the buzzer.
Princeton’s defense and its ability to control tempo played key roles in the Tigers’ win. Regarding the latter, FGCU averages 75.5 possessions per 40 minutes; Princeton’s more deliberate style results in an average of 68.2 possessions per 40 minutes. The pace of Wednesday night’s game was approximately 67.5 possessions. In terms of the former, the Tigers’ stingy defense has been its calling card this year, typically limiting opponents to offensive ratings well below their season average. FGCU was no different, as the Eagles managed just 82.3 points per 100 possessions against Princeton, well below their season average of 101.3.
In addition to hitting the game-deciding shot, Meyers led her squad with 18 points and also added seven rebounds. Stone paired her career-high 17 points with five boards and three steals. Junior guard Julia Cunningham chipped in with 10 points and eight rebounds, and sophomore forward Ellie Mitchell contributed eight points, nine boards, and three steals.
For FGCU, Bell finished with a double-double, consisting of 12 rebounds and a game-high 19 points. Princeton made the ASUN Conference Preseason Player of the Year work hard for her point total, limiting her to just 8-for-21 shooting from the field, including 0-for-9 from distance. Morehouse dropped 13 points and dished out seven dimes. Cox added 11 points, which included five points in the game’s final three minutes.
Princeton (6-2) suffered a 76-67 setback at Fordham in its next game and looks to bounce back with a five-game homestand that begins with Seton Hall on Saturday. FGCU (7-1) hosts a pair of non-Division I programs, taking on Palm Beach Atlantic and Ave Maria on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.
Power Six performance of the week: Teisha Hyman, Syracuse
How does one follow a career-best performance against a top-25 team? If you’re Syracuse guard Teisha Hyman, you become the fifth player in program history to record a triple-double and come inches from achieving the sixth quadruple-double in NCAA Division I history. Hyman dropped a career-high 30 points against then-No. 18 Ohio State last Wednesday, leading her team to the 97-91 upset win. Four days later against Central Connecticut State, her stat line was 27 points (10-for-12 from the field), 15 assists, 11 steals, eight rebounds, and only one turnover en route to a resounding 116-55 Orange victory.
Hyman is a great player. After all, she scored 2,000 points in high school. However, a performance like we saw on Sunday was far from preordained. In fact, it’s a wonder she’s even playing basketball at all.
Hyman tore her ACL during her junior year at Woodlands High School in New York and thought her basketball career was over. Instead, Hyman came back to the lineup after six months of rehabilitation and set her school’s all-time scoring record. She suffered another ACL tear in a game against NC State during her freshman year. After obtaining a medical redshirt last season, Hyman returned to action this season after a 622-day absence. Understanding the significant physical and mental toll an ACL tear has on an athlete (never mind two ACL tears), one must conclude that the fortitude Hyman has displayed throughout her basketball career is astonishing.
“The Ohio State game was just a reminder for me that I haven’t played in 622 days,” Hyman said. “It just feels good to have a good game like that. It just reminds me ‘you still got it.’”
It’s understandably been an up-and-down season so far for Hyman. Yet, her last three games - all Syracuse wins where she averaged 24.3 points, 8.3 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 4.3 steals, and only 1.3 turnovers - indicate that she has returned to form.
“The country will slowly realize who she is as time progresses,” teammate Najé Murray said. “It’s been 600 days, but they will find out very soon.”
Who can argue with her, particularly if Hyman continues this stellar play against the Orange’s grueling conference schedule?
Mid-Major performance of the week: Abby Brockmeyer, Southern Illinois
Before last Friday, Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith and Michigan’s Naz Hillmon were the only two players in Division I this season to have recorded a 30-point, 15-rebound double-double. Southern Illinois senior forward Abby Brockmeyer added her name to that exclusive list, posting a monster 34-point, 16-rebound, 3-block effort in the Salukis’ 74-66 win over Eastern Illinois on the first day of the Compass Challenge. While her career-high point total was impressive, it was her ability to control the glass that Southern Illinois coach Cindy Stein highlighted as the difference in Friday’s game.
"The key to the ballgame hands-down was the effort of our posts on the boards, making great stops," Stein said. "Controlling the boards and only letting [Eastern Illinois] have a few second-chance points, that was a really critical play for us today."
Impressed by Brockmeyer’s 16 boards Friday night? She grabbed a whopping 18 rebounds the next night against Western Illinois. 34 boards in two consecutive games? That’s not a bad weekend.
Death, taxes, and Brockmeyer’s dominance on the boards this season. (For those unable to decipher this $25,000 Pyramid-esque clue, these are all things you can count on.) The former Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year ranks 19th in total rebounding rate, pulling 22.3% of her rebound opportunities. Her 12.6 rebounds per game is good for eighth in the country.
Adam’s Top 25
Little has changed in my top eight teams since last week; however, the same cannot be said for the remainder of my top 25. I guess that’s what happens when seven AP top-25 teams fall to unranked opponents in the same week!
Here’s my latest attempt to navigate this chaos. Please let me know in the comments where I’ve gone wrong and (much less likely) where I’ve gone right.
Her Hoop Stats content in case you missed it
Megan Gauer and Calvin Wetzel recapped all the exciting Thanksgiving week action - from the Baha Mar Hoops Pink Flamingo Championship to the South Carolina-UConn battle - in the latest episode of Unplugged.
Just how high is WNBA No. 2 draft pick Awak Kuier’s ceiling? Robert Mummery broke down film of the various facets of her game to find out.
Kim Doss chronicled the Pac-12’s recent struggles and explained her votes for conference player of the week and freshman of the week.
Other recommended content
In a two-part series for Global Sport Matters, Karen Given spoke with panels that included Muffet McGraw and Marianne Stanley discussed changes in the level of equity in women’s basketball from the time before Title IX’s passage to now (Here is Part 1, and here is Part 2.).
In a piece for FiveThirtyEight, Howard Megdal evaluated how Rhyne Howard, Christyn Williams, and other WNBA prospects can boost their draft stock.
For the Boston Globe, Greg Levinsky provided insight into guard McKenzie Forbes’ journey from Cal Berkeley to joining her brother at Harvard. Greg also touched on how former Harvard guard Katie Benzan is thriving in her role at Maryland.
Despite returning only two players last season who played more than 19 minutes per game, North Carolina has jumped out to a 7-0 start. For The Next, Mitchell Northam explained the Tar Heels’ hot start.
Trivia question of the week
When was the last full season (so, ignoring the current one) UConn did not reach No. 1 in the AP Top 25 poll at any point?