January 24, 2023 

The Weekly Fast Break: Hustling for wins and records

Buckeyes crack while Boston and Siegrist break records

The dictionary defines the word “hustle” as “energetic action.” Here at The Weekly Fast Break, we see hustle all around us, on display night in and night out in college basketball. Even during these long days of the season, when coaches and players wake up in the dark and get home in the dark, everyone is hustling to give their team just that small edge to find wins.

On the floor, there are so many things that are out of a player’s control, but what they do determine themselves is their hustle. Every player in America right now is tired and sore, some more than others, but it is their energy and effort that they control – what can you do to help your team be better today? It might be stepping in to take a charge, grabbing a tough offensive rebound, going to the free throw line to seal a win or executing the scouting report so your coach’s blood pressure can decrease a tiny bit. No matter what, every player on every team is in control of their own hustle – those that give a little more earn their playing time this week.

TIP-OFF

Big Monday Bullseye: #2 Ohio State entered their Big Monday showdown with #10 Iowa undefeated and winning with their defense. The Buckeyes have been tops in the nation in steals per game, turnovers forced per game and lead the Big Ten in 3-point percentage defense (26.1%). But Iowa turned the tables on Ohio State in the second quarter, holding the Buckeyes to just 10 points. The Hawkeyes countered with their high-powered offense, led by All-American guard Caitlin Clark who had another triple-double (28 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds) to lead three players in double-figures. As a team, Iowa dominated Ohio State on the glass, 51-31, and weathered 17 turnovers against the Buckeyes defense. The 83-72 defeat is the first for Ohio State who continues to battle without the services of all-conference guard Jacy Sheldon, who has been out since November with a foot injury. If you are looking for the rematch on the calendar, it will have to wait until the Big Ten Tournament in March. This is the only meeting of these two teams this season in conference play.

Power in the ‘Pack: After two straight ACC loses to now #24 Florida State and #15 North Carolina, #20 NC State dropped nine spots in last week’s AP Poll. A renewed energy and hustle in the Wolfpack locker room propelled them to get back in the winning column with a 71-61 win over Miami on Jan. 19 and an important road win at Louisville 63-51 on Sunday afternoon. NC State had four players in double figures and turned up with heat on defense in the fourth quarter against Louisville, holding the Cardinals to just four points in the last 10 minutes. The Wolfpack sit at 5-4 in the ACC with a week to rest and prepare for a big home game against #7 Notre Dame on Jan. 29.

After two losses last week in ACC play, Wes Moore and his #20 NC State squad got back on the right track with victories over Miami and Louisville to get to 5-4 in conference play. (Photo credit: Mitchell Northam / The Next)

Midseason Madness: Her Hoops Stats announced on Jan. 18 their 15 players for the 2023 Becky Hammond Mid-Major Player of the Year Midseason Watch List. The list includes players from 14 schools and 12 different conferences. We have talked about many of these women at The Weekly Fast Break already this year and look forward to watching all of them continue their outstanding seasons:

Destinee Wells, Belmont; McKenna Hofschild, Colorado State; Abbey Hsu, Columbia; Keishana Washington, Drexel; Brynna Maxwell, Gonzaga; Yvonne Ejim, Gonzaga; Kiki Jefferson, James Madison; Sam Breen, UMass; Savannah Wheeler, MTSU; Katelyn Young, Murray State; Alex Fowler, Portland; Isnelle Natabou, Sacramento State; Myah Selland, South Dakota State; Quinesha Lockett, Toledo; and Dulcy Fankham Mendjiadeu, South Florida.

Poll Watch: Don’t look now but streaks are a hot topic for this week’s AP Top 25. For the first time in the 47-year history of the AP Poll, no team from the state of Texas is in the Top 25. This goes back to the days of Wayland Baptist and SWC dominance by the Texas Longhorns. #1 South Carolina stays at the top after two decisive wins, extending their streak at the top to 31 consecutive weeks. The Pac-12 has five teams ranked, including three in the top 10 – #2 Stanford, #8 UCLA and #9 Utah. #16 Duke falls three spots from last week after their mid-week loss to rival #15 North Carolina. Middle Tennessee State is squarely on everyone’s radar now, entering at #23 this week, their first time in the AP Top 25 in nine years. #24 Florida State joins the Top 25 party after two more wins, earning their first ranking since 2021.


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STAR POWER

Hustle and tenacity are two words often used when people speak of #1 South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston. The 6’5 All-American center set a school record on Sunday with the 73rd double-double of her career, posting 13 points and 14 rebounds in the Gamecocks 73-46 domination of Arkansas. Boston, who is averaging almost a double-double in SEC play (13.1 points and 9.9 rebounds) is 13 away from catching LSU legend Sylvia Fowles for the SEC mark of 86 double-doubles set from 2004-08. Records aside, Boston and her teammates are currently 20-0 and laser-focused on returning to the Final Four.

6’4 forward Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu continued her stellar season this week, helping South Florida push their winning streak to eight games and earning the American Athletic Conference’s Player of the Week award. The redshirt senior averaged 20 points and 15 rebounds in wins over Houston and Central Florida. In a two-point win over the Cougars, she scored 22 points and brought down 17 rebounds, while adding two assists and two steals. She followed that up with another double-double in their 83-51 win over UCF. And no, you are not imagining things – Fankam Mendjiadeu is one of the names on the mid-season watch list for the 2023 Becky Hammond Mid-Major Player of the Year we have highlighted this week. 

The record books for Villanova women’s basketball are full of great players who left their mark on the Wildcat program. Senior Maddy Siegrist is set to finish her career as one of those rare talents to play at Villanova. The 6’2 forward became the all-time scoring leader in program history on Jan. 21 at Creighton, dropping 23 points in the #21 Wildcats 73-57 road win. Siegrist, who currently leads the nation in scoring at 28.5 points per game, broke the program scoring record that was held by Shelly Pennefather (1983-1987). That record stood for 36 years and was set prior to the 3-point shot coming to the women’s game – it entered the college game at the start of the 1987-1988 season. Siegrist was named this week’s Big East Player of the Week, the 15th such award of her career.

Bellarmine is on a three-game winning streak and much of the credit can go to freshman Gracie Merkle. The 6’6 center took home her third ASUN Player of the Week and sixth Freshman of the Week award after two huge games for the Knights. She leads the conference in double-doubles, with her 13th of the year being a 29-point, 24-rebound performance against Jacksonville, helping Bellarmine win 66-54. Next up for the Knights is a road match-up at Stetson on Jan. 26.


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FILM SESSION

A two-game road swing for (R/V) Texas last week began with a trip to Lubbock, TX to face an old SWC rival, Texas Tech. The Longhorns have dominated this rivalry for the most part in recent years, but on Jan. 19, the Lady Raiders were able to get a win over Texas for the third consecutive season, 68-64. The stat sheet tells a story of close game, yet the Texas defense caused only 14 turnovers, allowing Tech to be able to control tempo and get into their half court offense. It was there that the Lady Raiders found the key to their success, attacking Texas inside and going 22-for-30 from the free throw line. The Longhorns did not have the same recipe for success as they made only six trips to the line the entire game.

The Big 12 schedule is not easy, and it is even tougher when you must get back on the bus and head to another rival road game. On Sunday, Texas faced Baylor in Waco and after being up just two at halftime, they dialed up the intensity and jumped on the Bears in the second 20 minutes. They turned Baylor over 20 times and dominated them on the glass 48-34. Even with sophomore sensation Rori Harmon going out with an injury in the second half, the Longhorns gutted out a big road win 68-55. The win gives Texas back-to-back wins over Baylor for the first time since 2010.

Texas Head Coach Vic Schaefer counted on his sophomore standout Rori Harmon to dig deep to help her team get an important road win at Baylor on Jan. 22 68-55. (Photo credit: Scott D. Weaver/Big 12 Conference)

Even though there is not a lot of time to rest and prepare, Vic Shafer and his squad will be extremely happy to see the friendly confines of their home court this week, the brand-new Moody Center in Austin. They host the Big 12 leader, #14 Oklahoma, on Jan. 25.

FULL COURT PRESS

Teams are hustling right now, from home games to road games to thanking their lucky stars for a mid-week or weekend bye. Conference byes sprinkled throughout each league gives us slower nights and some very busy ones too. Some upcoming games are gut-checks for teams – can they find the answers on the floor for a win to move themselves into better position in the conference standings? Every game and every week mean just a little more from here on out – be sure to tune into these games to chart your own hustle stats (check your local listings for game times and broadcasts):

Jan. 25 – (R/V) South Florida at Tulsa

                #14 Oklahoma at (R/V) Texas

                Rhode Island at George Mason

Jan. 26 – Louisville at Wake Forest

                 Boston College at Miami

                 #13 Michigan at #10 Maryland

                 Alabama at (R/V) Arkansas

                 #12 Virginia Tech at #16 Duke

                 #2 Ohio State at #6 Indiana

Jan. 27 – (R/V) USC at #9 Utah

                 #8 UCLA at #25 Colorado

                 Oregon State at #2 Stanford

Jan. 28 – Nebraska at #10 Iowa

                 DePaul at Seton Hall

                Yale at Princeton

                Penn at Harvard

                North Dakota State at North Dakota

                Bowling Green at Northern Illinois

                Oklahoma State at (R/V) Texas

                Loyola Marymount at Portland

Jan. 29 – #21 Villanova at #5 UConn

                 #8 UCLA at #9 Utah

                 (R/V) USC at #25 Colorado

                 Marquette at Butler

                 Ole Miss at (R/V) Arkansas

                 Kansas State at Kansas

                #12 Virginia Tech at Virginia

                Missouri at Kentucky


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Written by Missy Heidrick

I am a former shooting guard at Kansas State 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, 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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