February 14, 2024 

The Weekly Fast Break: For the love of the game

Huskers pick off Iowa; SLU star can score

This week, some of us find ourselves contemplating what many like to call a Hallmark holiday in the month of February. The origins of Valentine’s Day are not based upon the concept of flowers, candy and greeting cards, but are said to be rooted in ancient Roman tales with the story of Saint Valentine. One legend has it that he was a Roman priest who performed weddings for soldiers forbidden to marry as it was said that married soldiers did not make good warriors. Saint Valentine supposedly wore a ring with a Cupid on it—a symbol of love—that helped soldiers recognize him. Because of this legend, Saint Valentine became known as the patron saint of love. 

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Yet sometimes even we here at The Weekly Fast Break need a day on the calendar to remind us to spread some cheer with candy hearts and to remember that we see the love we have for the game on display every day during the basketball season. You see it in the eyes of the players on the floor, the ones that are so exhausted after a two-overtime victory to barely smile, but the joy is there. You see it in the intensity of a head coach in a huddle urging their team to get just one more stop on the defensive end that will help get your biggest win of the season. You see it in the stands from rabid fans screaming on every possession and nervous parents who cannot watch anyone shoot free throws with under a minute to play. College basketball gives us a wide range of emotions, all rooted in a love for the game.

This season rolls on at a rapid pace in the shortest month of the year towards the one every player, coach and fan wants to be playing in – March. But you cannot get there if you do not love every moment of what is ahead of you – travel, film sessions, practice, and games. It is time to dig in and believe that the loose ball you are chasing has your name on it. And while you are at it – we never say no to those little candy hearts on Valentine’s Day.

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Bouncing Buckeyes: When you win games in different ways – blowouts, close finishes and even overtime – the confidence level your locker room soars. When you rattle off 11 wins in a row, everyone starts to take notice. #2 Ohio State is coming off wins at Minnesota and Michigan State and finds themselves 21-3 overall and atop the Big Ten standings at 12-1. For a team that had question marks early in the season, the Buckeyes have found their footing behind one of the best backcourts in the nation. Graduate student Jacy Sheldon is averaging 17.6 points/game along with transfer Celeste Taylor who is posting just under 10 points/game. The two guards lead the team in steals and their aggressive play out front is a big reason why Ohio State is holding Big Ten opponents to just 66.5 points/game. Sophomore Cotie McMahon is no longer a secret weapon, but the 6’ forward has been a force with her versatile game, 13.8 points/game and leading the team in rebounding. Next up Kevin McGuff’s squad are two more road games – at Nebraska on Feb. 14 and at Penn State on Feb. 22. If they can stay the course, Ohio State could win their first outright Big Ten title since 2018.

Ohio State's Jacy Sheldon puts up a shot against UCLA
Ohio State has been led all season by guard Jacy Sheldon and the Buckeyes have now won 11 straight games.
(Photo credit: Ohio State Athletics)

Poll Watch: If there was any doubt why South Carolina is #1, you just have to look at their games last week which included a blasting of Missouri and the 83-65 win over now #15 UConn. The Gamecocks are rolling and everyone else is just trying keep up. While the second spot in the AP Top 25 Poll has not been kind to many, we will see if #2 Ohio State can keep a hold on it for the time being. The Buckeyes and #3 Stanford are up three spots this week. The biggest move this week is by #11 Oregon State, who is up six spots after a big win at now #8 Colorado.

The entire Top 25 stayed the same from a week ago, just with moves up and down – the biggest drop being four places by Colorado, UConn and #16 Notre Dame. Their color might not be pink or red, but the Syracuse Orange are on the move again this week, just four spots into the Top 20 at #19.


One of the best things about college basketball right now is that we have prolific scorers spread far and wide across the country, at every level and schools of all sizes. Kyla McMakin, a graduate student guard at Saint Louis University, is one of those players whose star is shining bright this month. The Virginia Beach, Virginia native has become only the third-ever player in NCAA women’s basketball history to score 1,000 points at two separate institutions. McMakin scored over 1,600 points in three seasons at Longwood, where she was a Big South first team all-conference selection each year. Her 15-point performance on Feb. 7 in SLU’s loss to VCU pushed her over the 1,000-point mark in a Billiken uniform. Last season, McMakin helped guide SLU to their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance with their win over UMass in the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament championship. She is averaging 16.6 points/game this year and next up for McMakin and SLU is a home game with Loyola Chicago on Feb. 14.

BYU forward Lauren Gustin is the best rebounder in the nation and was named Big 12 Player of the Week for 2 double-double performances. (Photo credit: Joey Garrison/BYU photo photo.byu.edu)

It was a week of firsts in Provo, Utah as BYU got out the brooms for a clean sweep of the Big 12 Conference weekly awards. The Big 12 Player of the week award went to senior Lauren Gustin, who could very well be the best rebounder in the nation. Gustin led the Cougars with a 23-point, 16-rebound performance in their 78-66 win over No. 18 Baylor on Feb. 7, snapping a three-game losing streak. The 6’1 forward then posted her 23rd double-double of the season at Cincinnati on Feb. 10 with 21 points and 20 rebounds. It was the third 20-point, 20-rebound game for her this season as BYU beat the Bearcats 69-57 on the road. Gustin is the first BYU women’s basketball player to win Big 12 Player of the Week.

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Joining Gustin on the awards list was guard Amari Whiting who was named Big 12 Freshman of the Week after averaging 12 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists in two wins for the Cougars. Whiting scored 14 points with eight rebounds and nine assists in the win against Baylor and then followed it up with 10 points and seven boards in the victory over Cincinnati, which was BYU’s first Big 12 road win. The Feb. 7 win at Baylor was also a milestone for her mother and head coach, Amber Whiting, who earned the first AP Top 25 win of her young D1 coaching career.

As the season goes on, we know that more and more records will be broken and on Feb. 8, a monster one bit the dust. #12 Virginia Tech’s Elizabeth Kitley, the two-time ACC Player of the Year, broke the ACC record for career double-doubles in the Hokies’ 72-61 win over #6 NC State. The 6’6 graduate student had 25 points and 13 rebounds in the victory, making it her 73rd career double-double. She followed it up 24 points and 15 rebounds in the 74-63 win at home over Boston College on Feb. 11. For her record-breaking week, Kitley was named ACC Player of the Week, the fourth of this season and 13th of her career so far.

South Dakota State sophomore Madison Mathiowetz had a career day on the road for the Jackrabbits at Oral Roberts to help her team stay undefeated in Summit League action. (Photo credit: Evan Patzwald)

While we say records and streaks are made to be broken, sometimes there are those that are very hard to crack. South Dakota State is 10-0 in the Summit League this season and has won a head-scratching 41 straight games in conference play. They are down several players due to injury but getting a massive lift from sophomore Madison Mathiowetz who was named the latest Summit League Peak Performer of the Week. The 5’10 guard from Sleepy Eye, Minnesota had a career day on Feb. 10 with 22 points, leading the Jackrabbits to a 103-77 road win at Oral Roberts. Mathiowetz knocked down six threes, going 8-for-11 the floor and added three rebounds and three assists to her line in 31 minutes of action.


The attention and electricity that is following Iowa superstar Caitlin Clark throughout this season is something we have not really seen at this level in women’s college basketball. Yet as crazy as the crowds, media attention and hype off the court has been around Clark, the attention she draws on the floor in a game is what makes scouting reports legendary.

On Sunday, Feb. 11, then #2 Iowa traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska to take on the Cornhuskers in front of a sold-out crowd of mostly red-clad fans. While many in attendance were hoping that it would be the day Clark broke Kelsey Plum’s all-time NCAA scoring record, it ended up being one to remember for Husker nation. 

Senior Jaz Shelley & the Nebraska Cornhuskers came back from down 14 points in the second half to win at home over #2 Iowa. .
(Photo credit: Nebraska Athletics)

Iowa was up 39-35 after the first twenty minutes and extended their biggest lead to 14 just before the end of the 3rd quarter. But in final 10 minutes of the game, Nebraska made some changes defensively on Clark that allowed them to chip away at the Hawkeye lead. With a box and one on Clark and the tough assignment primarily going to junior guard Kendall Moriarty, Nebraska held her scoreless in the fourth quarter. Constantly shadowed by Moriarty and others on every catch and cut, Clark was 0-for-6 from the field (all contested shots) and finished with 31 points. The rest of the Iowa offense went stagnant with players standing and multiple possessions going down to the final seconds of the shot clock.

In the fourth quarter, Nebraska capitalized on misses by Iowa, turnovers (4), corralled long rebounds (11 defensive boards) and went on a scoring tear, posting 27 points. They were 8-for-15 from the field and 3-for-6 from behind the arc, including two huge threes by senior Jaz Shelley, who led the Huskers with 23 points. Her two long-range makes late were difference makers. While Clark could not find a way to score, Nebraska did and when it counted, secured the win at the free throw line. As a team, they went 8-for-10 in the final 10 minutes. Along with Shelley’s 23 points, junior post Alexis Markowski finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds, all while playing with four fouls in the final quarter. Two freshman – Logan Nissley and Natalie Potts – each hit double figures and were key down the stretch.

Alexis Markowski dribbles the ball for Nebraska against Northwestern State
Junior Alexis Markowski has come up big all season for Nebraska and none bigger than a double-double to take down #2 Iowa on Feb. 11. (Photo credit: Nebraska Athletics)

Nebraska head coach Amy Williams said in her postgame press conference: “I am so proud to be the head coach at Nebraska”. To knock off #2 Iowa 82-79 in front of a sold-out crowd, a record-setting national television audience at home and with a team that did not quit, you can see why Williams loves Husker nation. 

*Nebraska guard Jaz Shelley was named AP National Player of the Week on Feb. 13

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No matter if there is a special someone in your life or not, we should all try our hand at spreading some happiness this Valentine’s Day. Maybe it is just a wave to a neighbor on the way to work or a bigger tip to the barista during your daily stop at Starbucks. But even if your mailbox is not loaded with cards or fresh flowers arrive at your door, be sure to sprinkle some love for your favorite team this week – they are battling to the end and could use some good vibes in the middle of February (check your local listings and broadcast schedule for times):

Feb. 14

#7 Kansas State at Iowa State

Colorado State at R/V UNLV

George Mason at Davidson

Feb. 15

#6 NC State at #16 Notre Dame

Illinois at Penn State

Middle Tennessee at New Mexico State

R/V Duke at #12 Virginia Tech

Michigan at #4 Iowa

Northern Iowa at Belmont

Drake at Murray State

Vanderbilt at Texas A&M

Feb. 16

#25 Princeton at Brown

#8 Colorado at #22 Utah

#9 UCLA at #11 Oregon State

Feb. 17

#23 Oklahoma at #24 West Virginia

Holy Cross at Army

Rice at UAB

Green Bay at Youngstown State

Milwaukee at Cleveland State

Iowa State at #5 Texas

Kansas at BYU

Feb. 18

R/V Michigan State at Michigan

Georgia at #1 South Carolina

#12 Virginia Tech at #18 Louisville

R/V Tennessee at Vanderbilt

#10 USC at #11 Oregon State

R/V Mississippi State at Mississippi

Missouri at Arkansas

Feb. 19

#20 Creighton at #15 UConn

#13 LSU at Texas A&M

#16 Notre Dame at Duke

Bethune-Cookman at Jackson State

Feb. 20

#23 Oklahoma at Cincinnati

Northwestern at R/V Nebraska

Seton Hall at Marquette 

Written by Missy Heidrick

I am a retired Kansas State shooting guard and spent almost 20 years working in Higher Education and Division 1 athletics. I am currently a basketball analyst for television and radio, contributing correspondent at The Next, Locked on Women's Basketball podcast host, WBB Naismith Award board of selectors member and run my own consulting business. I am a proud mother of two and wife to a patient husband who is almost as big of a sports junkie as I am!

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