It’s the season of giving and women’s basketball is providing plenty of it this week ahead of a short holiday break next week.
The Florida Sunshine Classic and Basketball Hall of Fame Women’s Showcase feature a combined five teams ranked in the top 25 by the Associated Press and two more that are contenders. Sunday also features two additional contests between ranked teams, both of which will be on conference TV networks.
It’s the last stretch before conference play begins at the end of this month. As well as the following games, keep an eye on No. 20 Missouri State against No. 17 Gonzaga on Friday night at 9 ET and No. 1 Stanford (10-0) against Texas on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. The full schedule is here with results.
But first, a message from Champ Staley following a big victory, in two ways, against Duke on Thursday.
Am @GamecockWBB FAMs! Thought you might want to see this Ted Talk from my boy @ChampStaley last night. He’s happy Teddy Toss Thursday is over....back to being the only fur baby in @CLAmktg 😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/ElXtVnopJQ— dawnstaley (@dawnstaley) December 20, 2019
Basketball Hall of Fame Women’s Showcase
Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut
No. 24 Michigan (9-1) vs. No. 8 Florida State (11-0)
The first of the doubleheader will begin at 1:30 p.m. on the ACC Network. The Seminoles have a solid resume already, with back-to-back victories over then No. 6 Texas A&M (80-58) and No. 19 Michigan State. They’re out to their best start since the 2004-05 season and can tie it at the showcase this weekend.
Kiah Gillespie, a redshirt senior, led in each game, scoring 22 and 24, respectively, with a combined 21 rebounds. Her double-double against Michigan State was the 17th of her career, placing her in a tie for 10th on the program’s career list.
Nausia Woolfolk led the Noles in the Texas A&M drubbing with 24 points, six rebounds, and five assists. And the team is shooting 46.9 percent overall, 17th best in the category.
While Michigan has kept opponents to 36.6 percent shooting overall (ranked 76th), the Wolverines have yet to face as stiff competition as Florida State has so far. The rebuilding Notre Dame beat them at home in November and they scraped by Syracuse in an overtime contest at home.
Sophomore Naz Hillmon, a gold medalist with USA Basketball’s 2018 U18 team, is the player to watch for Michigan. She’s averaging 15.6 points per game, shooting 61.8 percent, with 8.4 rebounds. Her mother, Nasheema, played at Vanderbilt and in the American Basketball League.
Oklahoma (7-4) at No. 2 UConn (9-0)
Oklahoma and Connecticut are set to tip off at 4 p.m. on CBS Sports Network for a third consecutive season and the second-ranked Huskies will have to keep Taylor Robertson from beating them from behind the 3-point arc. She’s a large reason the Sooners are averaging 82.9 points per game (eighth in the nation) and 40.0 percent behind the arc (eighth).
Robertson, a 5-foot-7 sophomore, has made an NCAA-best 56 3-pointers through 11 games, shooting 41.9 percent from distance and averaging 19.5 points per game. It’s more than half of the team’s 100 makes. And it’s not a small sample size situation. She shot 46.7 percent (105 of 225) as a freshman.
Wichita State head coach had a high comparison for the star after facing Oklahoma earlier this month, when Robertson scored 30 points and made nine 3-pointers. Via the Wichita Eagle:
“I like to compare her to Larry Bird,” Adams said. “She’s a really good shooter, a really good passer and she knows the game very well. She’s got a great, great shot and a great basketball IQ. She’s a really good kid and a really good player.”
The Huskies are not doing well at containing long-distance shooters and rank 114th in 3-point defense. They are coming off a contest against DePaul, a team that averages 12 3-pointers a game, in which they fared well at the start but couldn’t keep it up and nearly lost after leading by 26.
“Offensively we were good, defensively we were good. We knew coming out in the second half is that it was impossible to recreate that first half,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said after that game, via The Athletic’s Maggie Hendricks. “When you have such a good shooting team as they do, and they make so many during the game, they’re not going to have a game where they don’t make any. I was disappointed in what we did on the offensive end in the second half.”
Auriemma will miss the contest after undergoing a successful minor surgery Wednesday, per the Associated Press. Associate head coach Chris Dailey will coach in his stead. She’s 9-0 in games the 65-year-old Auriemma has missed over his 35 seasons at Connecticut.
Florida Sunshine Classic
Friday through Sunday at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida
Friday: No. 19 Michigan State (7-2) vs. Syracuse (5-4), 1:30 p.m.
Saturday: No. 22 West Virginia (7-1) vs. No. 19 Michigan State (7-2), 1:30 p.m.
Sunday: No. 22 West Virginia (7-1) vs. Syracuse (5-4), 1:30 p.m.
For some fun, here’s the always fashionable Quentin Hillsman, head coach of Syracuse, talking about his swag.
No. 25 South Dakota (11-1) at No. 5 South Carolina
Sunday, 12 p.m., SEC Network
Mid majors are always looking to boost their resumes. All it takes is one hiccup in the conference tournament to be on the outside of March Madness since at-large bids are difficult to come by for the non-power five.
The Coyotes are favored to win the Summit Conference, edging out South Dakota State in the preseason poll. South Dakota State defeated South Dakota, 83-71, in the 2019 conference tournament and went on to to the sweet sixteen of the NCAA tournament with an upset at Syracuse. South Dakota got an at-large bid, losing in the first round to Clemson.
Keeping in it with South Carolina, a team fueled by exquisite freshmen, will go a long way in March when the teams and seeds are determined. As a team, the Coyotes are second in the nation in 3-point shooting at 42.7 percent (121 of 277). That’s led by preseason MVP selection Ciara Duffy, who is tops in the nation at 54 percent (27 of 50). The senior is shooting 50.4 percent overall and averaging 16.4 points per game.
Ciara Duffy starts the second quarter off with a bang 💥— South Dakota Women's Basketball (@SDCoyotesWBB) December 15, 2019
Coyotes up, 31-16. pic.twitter.com/Mz15YR5CE4
South Carolina’s skill is at the rim with the most blocked shots in the country. The Gamecocks’ 100 far outpaces second-best Mississippi State’s 67 through the same amount of games. Freshman Aliyah Boston, who had a block party to start her collegiate career, has 35 total blocks. That trails only four players in Division I.
The Gamecocks average a third-best 47.82 rebounds per game with a tall roster and are outscoring opponents on average 28.4 points (81.0-52.6).
No. 10 UCLA (10-0) at No. 12 Indiana (10-1)
Sunday, 12 p.m. Big Ten Network
Indiana is going for a third win over a ranked opponent this season, and if the Hoosiers get it it could be yet another week of besting their all-time highest Associated Press ranking. Indiana has thrived on defense, allowing an 11th-best 52.4 points per game and outscoring opponents by an average of 24.7 points. Opposing teams are shooting 32.1 percent, another top-15 statistical category.
UCLA is coming off a tight win over Georgia in which they outrebounded the Dawgs 50-37, an advantage head coach Cori Close wants to see more often.
''Rebounding has been a strength in past years,'' said Close, via the Associated Press. ''But I think it is an area we have been a great underachiever in this year. I have challenged them. We knew we had to dominate the rebounding and grow in toughness.''
With the packed Pac-12 schedule looming large it’s something to watch closely for here, though the Bruins won’t face the conference’s top teams (Oregon, Stanford, Oregon State) until February.
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