December 31, 2021 

Daily Briefing — Dec. 31, 2021: Becky Hammon, Las Vegas’ ace in the hole

And some wild upsets across college ball

Happy Friday, and happy New Year’s Eve! Welcome to The Next’s Daily Briefing, featuring the W Roundup, daily Watch List, and Yesterday’s Recap! Day 51 of college basketball is here, and despite it all, we’ve made it through 2021. Well, most of us — South Carolina’s and Nebraska’s perfect records and Duke’s, uh, competitiveness didn’t quite make it through. Oh, and Becky Hammon is now a W head coach. How ‘bout that?

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(All times in Eastern)

W Roundup

Las Vegas: Is hiring Becky Hammon as its next head coach, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania and Chantel Jennings, on a five-year contract that will reset the coaching market, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Four-year head coach Bill Laimbeer will step aside to the open general manager role as the Aces make what is likely a significant upgrade at the coaching slot. As I noted on Sunday, Hammon has been an assistant coach at arguably the greatest dynasty in modern professional basketball for eight years and the top assistant to the sport’s greatest-ever professional coach for the past four — just don’t read anything else I wrote there. Anyway, it’s a slam-dunk hire.

This is great news for the W, for fans, for the Aces, for A’ja Wilson and co., and prospective coaches. It’s probably bad news for Liberty owner Joseph Tsai and Mercury owner Robert Sarver if they’re not willing to match the new market price for a quality head coach. It was just the past summer that Hammon was heavily connected with MNBA openings, and it was baffling that she went through another hiring cycle without leading a team. Her contract figures from Las Vegas will go a long way to telling us how much of this was about what the W could offer, and how much was about what the MNBA wouldn’t offer.

Watch List, Friday, Dec. 31


#25 Ohio State @ #9 Michigan, Noon, BTN

Good games


Also watchable

Wright State @ Dayton, Noon, ESPN+

Seton Hall @ Villanova, 2 p.m., FloHoops

Sickos games


Thursday, Dec. 30 recap

#1 South Carolina: 70-69 overtime loss to Mizzou, the Tigers’ first win over a No. 1 team, and their first ranked win since beating No. 13 Kentucky in March 2019 — they were 0-18 against ranked teams since, including two losses to No. 1 South Carolina teams. The Gamecocks entered as 91.6% favorites by Her Hoop Stats and 83.3% by ESPN’s win probability model and came back from down six with under three minutes remaining in overtime before leading by three with less than a minute left in overtime. South Carolina shot just 38.2% from the field and 28.6% from three while allowing 43.1% and 46.7% to Mizzou, respectively; the Gamecocks took 18 more shots thanks to 20 offensive boards.

Center Aliyah Boston led with a team-high 17 points on 7-for-14 shooting (1-2 3pt.) and 12 points (five offensive) for a double-double, plus a pair of blocks against four fouls in 28 minutes; backup center Kamilla Cardoso benefited from Boston’s foul trouble, finishing with a season-high 14 points on 7-for-9 FG, eight rebounds (four offensive), and two blocks in 20 minutes; point guard Destanni Henderson notched seven points on 2-for-12 shooting (0-3 3pt.), four rebounds, seven assists, and a lone turnover; wing Zia Cooke scored 10 points on just 4-for-19 from the field and 2-for-8 from three. Tiger big Hayley Frank scored a hyper-efficient 21 points on 7-for-8 shooting (3-4 3pt.) — that’s a 107.6% true-shooting!; combo guard Lauren Hansen tied those game-high 21 points on 8-for-19 from the field (2-5 3pt.) with a career-high seven rebounds. Mizzou was missing big wing Aijha Blackwell, its best player, to health and safety protocols.

#3 Louisville: 79-49 win over Boston College. Outscored the Eagles 44-25 in the second half. Allowed 35.4% from the field and 13.3% from three; Boston College missed 13 free-throws; the Cardinals forced 21 turnovers while committing 20 fouls. Big wing Emily Engstler had a game-high 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting (1-1 3pt.), seven rebounds (three offensive), four assists, and three steals against two turnovers in 17 minutes — just the third 14/7/4/3 game in 17 or fewer minutes in the HHS era; combo guard Hailey Van Lith scored 12 points on 5-for-10 from the field (2-3 3pt.) with two steals against a pair of turnovers; bench off-ball guard Payton Verhulst tied a career-high of 12 points on 4-for-7 FG (1-1 3pt.) with four fouls in 20 minutes; big Liz Dixon notched 10 points on 4-for-5 from the field, seven rebounds (three offensive), and two assists off the bench; center Olivia Cochran tallied 10 points on 3-for-6 shooting (0-1 3pt.) and four rebounds without a turnover.

#5 N.C. State: 79-52 win over Clemson. Outscored the Tigers 26-8 in the third quarter. Shot 47.5% from the field and 42.9% from three; outrebounded Clemson by 17; notched 14 steals. The two teams combined for 44 turnovers. Combo forward Jada Boyd scored a game-high 18 points on 8-for-14 shooting (2-2 3pt.) with eight rebounds and four turnovers — all season-highs; backup point guard Diamond Johnson had 15 points on 5-for-10 from the field and 3-for-6 from three with seven rebounds, four assists, and three steals against two turnovers; bench off-ball guard Madison Hayes notched 11 points on 3-for-5 FG (1-3 3pt., 4-6 FT) and four rebounds (three offensive).

#7 Tennessee: 62-44 win over Alabama. Scored just seven points in the second quarter, but won the fourth 24-7. Shot only 4-for-15 from three; held the Tide to 23.9% from the field and 17.2% from three. Combo guard Jordan Walker scored a game-high 16 points on 7-for-13 shooting (1-3 3pt.) with six rebounds, a season-high six assists, and a lone turnover; center Tamari Key notched a 13-point, 11-rebound double-double on 4-for-6 FG (5-7 FT) with three assists and five blocks against four fouls in 30 minutes.

#13 Georgia, #19 LSU: The Tigers beat the Bulldogs 68-62, though Georgia was without center Jenna Staiti, its best player, due to health and safety protocols (i.e. COVID). LSU led by 16 points in the mid-third quarter, before the Bulldogs reeled off a 16-3 run and were tied as late as 1:30 in the fourth. The Tigers notched 15 steals, part of 18 forced turnovers; Georgia committed 18 fouls.

Point guard Khayla Pointer led LSU with 21 points on 7-for-20 from the field and 4-for-8 from three (3-7 FT) with three steals and two turnovers without ever sitting; center Faustine Aifuwa had 17 points on 8-for-11 FG, nine rebounds, three assists, and two blocks. The Bulldogs were led by point guard Que Morrison had a double-double with a season-high 26 points on 11-for-18 shooting (2-3 3pt.) and a career-high 10 assists, plus seven rebounds, two steals, and a season-high six turnovers; wing Sarah Ashlee Barker scored 14 points on 6-for-13 from the field (2-4 3pt.).

#15 Duke: 77-55 loss to Virginia Tech. Were outscored 20-8 in the second quarter. Shot just 30.4% from the field and 16.7% from three; the Hokies shot 40.9% from deep and made all 20 of their free throws. Big wing Elizabeth Balogun scored a season-high 22 points on 9-for-17 shooting (1-3 3pt.) with four rebounds and three blocks; center Jade Williams came off the bench after starting the Blue Devils’ first 10 games, finishing with two points and four missed free-throws. Virginia Tech center Elizabeth Kitley had 27 points on 9-for-18 FG (9-9 FT), 13 rebounds, and three blocks; point guard Georgia Amoore notched 20 points on 7-for-12 from the field and 4-for-8 from three, a season-high six rebounds, six assists, and a lone turnover.

#24 North Carolina: 79-43 win over Syracuse. Outscored the Orange 21-6 in the third quarter. Shot just 39.5% from the field and 16.0% from three while missing 10 free-throws; held Syracuse to 21.1% shooting and 21.7% from deep; had 63 rebounds, including 26 offensive boards; forced 23 turnovers and 19 fouls.

Big wing Alyssa Ustby had a 12-point, 14-rebound double-double on 5-for-14 shooting (0-1 3pt.) with a career-high six assists; big Anya Poole had a double-double with 11 points on 5-for-10 FG and 10 rebounds (four offensive) in 17 minutes; bench combo guard Eva Hodgson had 11 points on 4-for-9 shooting (3-7 3pt.) and two steals; combo guard Deja Kelly scored 12 points on 5-for-16 from the field and 1-for-6 from three with five rebounds, two steals, and two blocks against four turnovers; combo guard Carlie Littlefield scored four points on 2-for-9 FG (0-5 3pt.) with four rebounds and two steals against four fouls in 28 minutes; wing Kennedy Todd-Williams tallied 10 points on 2-for-8 shooting (0-5 3pt., 6-6 FT) and five rebounds.

RV Nebraska: 72-69 loss to Michigan State, the Huskers’ first loss of the season. Point guard Sam Haiby had 19 points on 6-for-12 shooting (0-3 3pt., 7-7 FT), seven rebounds, five assists, and six steals. Spartan point guard Nia Clouden scored 32 points on 8-for-24 from the field and 15-for-17 from the line with five rebounds, six assists, and four fouls.

Indiana State: 78-70 win over Drake. The Sycamores were picked to finish second-to-last in the MVC but opened their conference play with a win over the preseason No. 2 in the conference.

NJIT: 54-49 win over Stony Brook, the America East favorite. The Highlanders were picked to finish eighth in the conference, making this a huge upset to open each’s conference season, though the Seawolves were without multiple players, including starting guard Earlette Scott.

Western Kentucky: 98-88 win over Southern Miss. Combo guard Meral Abdelgawad set a career-high with 36 points on 13-for-18 from the field and 5-for-9 from three with nine rebounds (five offensive), five assists, and two steals against four turnovers.

UT-Martin: 70-62 win over Austin Peay. Combo guard Paige Pipkin scored a career-high 33 points on 11-for-17 shooting (3-7 3pt., 8-9 FT) against three turnovers and four fouls in 39 minutes.

Middle Tennessee: 85-56 win over UTSA. Big Courtney Whitson notched a career-high 31 points on 12-for-20 from the field and 6-for-11 from three.

Murray State: 82-58 win over Southeast Missouri State. Wing Katelyn Young had 31 points on 9-for-17 from the field and 13-for-13 from the line with nine rebounds (six offensive) and four blocks — career-highs in points, offensive boards, and blocks.

Youngstown State: 64-41 win over Purdue-Fort Wayne. Point guard Chelsea Odom missed a triple-double thanks to going 1-for-7 from the field and 0-for-4 from three, despite 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

Blown leads

Florida State: 75-69 overtime loss to Wake Forest. Had a 98.3% win expectancy with a 13-point lead in the mid-fourth quarter, before getting outscored 15-2 over the final six-plus minutes.

Tennessee State: 96-93 overtime win over Tennessee Tech. I, uh… just see for yourself:

The teams combined to shoot 56.5% from the field with 38 turnovers and 46 fouls. Okay.


  • #6 Maryland @ Illinois
  • #8 Indiana @ Rutgers
  • #16 Georgia Tech @ Pitt
  • #17 Notre Dame @ Virginia
  • San Diego vs. #18 BYU
  • #20 Kentucky @ Auburn
  • #21 Iowa @ Penn State
  • #23 Texas A&M vs. Vanderbilt
  • Ole Miss vs. Arkansas
  • Gonzaga vs. San Francisco
  • Mississippi State vs. Florida
  • Wisconsin vs. Purdue
  • St. Peter’s vs. Quinnipiac
  • Georgia State vs. Little Rock
  • Green Bay vs. Detroit Mercy
  • Old Dominion vs. FIU
  • Charlotte vs. FAU
  • Loyola Marymount vs. Portland
  • Northern Iowa vs. Evansville
  • Pepperdine vs. Pacific
  • Omaha vs. Kansas City
  • Lehigh vs. American
  • South Alabama vs. Appalachian State
  • New Hampshire vs. UMass-Lowell
  • Hartford vs. Albany
  • Loyola (MD) vs. Army
  • Marist vs. Canisius
  • Rider vs. Niagara
  • Denver vs. Oral Roberts
  • Eastern Washington vs. Portland State
  • Manhattan vs. Siena
  • Binghamton vs. UMBC
  • Lamar vs. Sam Houston
  • Santa Clara vs. St, Mary’s
  • UC Riverside vs. Hawai’i
  • UC Santa Barbara vs. UC San Diego
  • CSU Fullerton vs. CSU Bakersfield
  • CSU Northridge vs. UC Irvine

Over half of tomorrow’s games are cancelled.

Written by Em Adler

Em Adler (she/they) covers the WNBA at large and college basketball for The Next, with a focus on player development and the game behind the game.

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