December 27, 2022
The Weekly Fast Break: Pushing into the New Year
Overtime W’s & marquee matchups set the stage for 2023
We hope that the holiday festivities of the past week have brought you plenty of cheer and goodwill. If you ran into Elliott, the winter storm that has swept across the nation, we can empathize with travel headaches, shoveling snow and cars that will not start. Because of the holidays, it has been quiet in the world of college basketball, but week five of The Weekly Fast Break is braving the frigid temperatures and ready to get to work.
To all players returning in the next day or two to campus – we send you back with a word of caution. Coaches LOVE the holiday break because they get you all day, every day until class begins in January 2023. With that, our final wish in this festive time for all of you is this – we hope your coaches are in a good mood and not The Grinch. You will most definitely earn your playing time in the days to come – may the force be with all of you!
Extra Time Needed: Sometimes 40 minutes just is not enough and that was the case for a classic Big 8 Conference battle on Dec. 21. #22 Kansas went into Lincoln, Neb., undefeated but junior Jaz Shelley and the (R/V) Nebraska Cornhuskers had other plans. Three overtimes later, the Huskers had an 85-79 victory to push their record to 10-3 and hand the Jayhawks their first loss of the season. Shelley led four Nebraska players in double-figures with 24 points and sophomore Alexis Markowski added 18 points and 10 rebounds. Next up for both teams – Nebraska hosts #14 Michigan on Dec. 28 and Kansas kicks off Big 12 play at Oklahoma State on New Year’s Eve.
Intriguing Illini: We see it every year in college basketball – programs reset with a change in leadership and success follows. Illinois is no different under first-year head coach Shauna Green. The Fighting Illini are 11-2, 1-1 in Big Ten play, including being undefeated at home (7-0). Three players are averaging double figures, led by 5-6 junior guard Makira Cook (17.9/game), who followed her coach from Dayton last spring. The Illini have held their own so far because of their defense, allowing just 57.3 points/game. With the Big Ten schedule now in full force, defense can be the key to continued success.
Poll Watch: For the third week in a row, the top 5 spots remain the same. Seven teams moved up one in spots #6-12. Michigan rose five spots to #14 with #19 Gonzaga and #20 Oklahoma rising three spots this week. #13 North Carolina dropped seven places after a 76-68 loss to Michigan at the Jumpman Invitational. Two consecutive losses for #24 Arkansas drops them seven places and St. John’s stays at #25 this week at 12-0 with a decisive 80-51 win over Wagner.
What better holiday gift than what radiates pure star power – a triple-double. Genesis Bryant, the 5-6 junior guard from Illinois, put on a show in her team’s 76-66 win over Florida Atlantic. The NC State transfer had 22 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists to stuff that holiday stat stocking just in time for a few days off.
It never ceases to amaze us what Iowa’s Catlin Clark can do on the floor, but how fast she has done it is another story. The junior guard has tied former Delaware star Elena Delle Donne as the fastest in Division I women’s basketball this century to reach 2,000 points. Clark poured in 20 points in Iowa’s win over Dartmouth 92-54 in front of the 8,100 festive Hawkeye fans. Clark and her teammates will be back in action on Dec. 29 when Iowa hosts Purdue, looking to end 2022 in style.
After helping her East Carolina team to a pair of wins last week with a double-double in each game, forward Amiya Joyner was named the American Athletic Conference (AAC) Freshman of the Week. Joyner averaged 15 points and 11 rebounds in the Pirates (9-4) wins over North Carolina A&T and Hampton. She hit the game-winning shot against Hampton with 2.1 seconds left and two free throws to ice the game with one second left. Joyner and East Carolina kick off AAC conference play on Dec. 30 against Tulsa.
Since we did not have as much game action over the past week, we thought it might be good to shine our holiday spotlight on some national team and individual stat leaders. If you are looking for high-flying offense, get to Baton Rouge, LA where #9 LSU leads the nation in scoring at 94.8 points per game. Coaches love efficient offense and so the UConn staff must be happy right now with the #8 Huskies averaging 52.7% from the field. Defense most definitely wins games and that is why #1 South Carolina is still undefeated – they lead the nation in scoring defense at 43.8 points per game. We love to see team effort in rebounding and so hats off to Troy, the nation’s best rebounding team right now at 54.1 rebounds per game.
There are so many great individual statistics that it is hard to name them all, but if a player is looking to increase their playing time, I would say assists and steals can get you on the floor. Junior Nika Mühl of UConn leads the nation in assists at 10.1/game and 5’3 freshman Ny’Ceara Pryor of Sacred Heart is tops at 4.1 steals per game. To no one’s surprise, this season we are seeing some outstanding scorers – here are the top five as of Dec. 27:
- Senior Keishana Washington of Drexel – 28.7/game
- Senior Maddy Siegrist of Villanova – 28.0/game
- Junior Caitlin Clark of Iowa – 27.0/game
- Sophomore Aneesah Morrow of DePaul – 25.5/game
- Freshman Ta’Niya Latson of Florida State – 25.0/game
SHOT CLOCK VIOLATIONS
We have two game violations that stand out to us this week. The first was no fault of any player or coach – we are blaming it on Mother Nature. The blizzard conditions that swept across the state of Iowa last week compliments of winter storm Elliott, canceled the inter-state match-up of Drake at #15 Iowa State on Dec. 22. We love the fact that the women’s programs in Iowa meet the challenge each year to schedule each other for very tough non-conference games. Iowa State and Drake administrators together made the right decision to cancel the game allowing the student-athletes to travel home, and avoiding fans being out in the rough conditions. Unfortunately, we all missed out on what is annually a great game, so circle it for 2023 – we will be watching.
Our second violation goes to a team in desperate need of a win to start 2023. The Dayton Flyers are 0-10 on the year and host Division II Cedarville on Dec. 29 in an exhibition game. It has not been the start that first-year coach Tamika Williams-Jeter wanted as she took over a program that was 26-6 a year ago. Dayton will begin Atlantic-10 play on Jan. 1 which gives them a re-set in the new year. We will wait to see when the Flyers can celebrate win No. 1.
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FULL COURT PRESS
We have had a few days to decompress from family gatherings and the overabundance of chocolate and Cabernet Sauvignon. But the best part of powering through the holiday craziness is that we have reached part two of the season – conference play! No home court is safe, and no crowd will be happy with the officials’ calls. Here are some games of interest to watch, especially on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. That is if your father-in-law hands over the remote (check your local listings for game times and broadcasts):
Dec. 28 – Troy at Belmont
#14 Michigan at (R/V) Nebraska
(R/V) Villanova at (R/V) Marquette
#8 UConn at #21 Creighton
#3 Ohio State at Northwestern
Dec. 29 – #5 Notre Dame at Miami
Mississippi State at Vanderbilt
#9 LSU at #24 Arkansas
Arizona State at #18 Arizona
South Dakota at St. Thomas (MN)
Dec. 30 – Minnesota at #16 Maryland
Colorado at Washington
Tulsa at East Carolina
#11 Utah at Washington State
UIC at Murray State
SMU at Houston
#10 UCLA at #17 Oregon
Dec. 31 – #25 St. John’s at Georgetown
Princeton at Harvard
(R/V) Marquette at #8 UConn
#20 Oklahoma at West Virginia
North Dakota at North Dakota State
Kansas State at Texas
#21 Creighton at DePaul
St. Mary’s at BYU
Jan. 1 – (R/V) Louisville at (R/V) Duke
(R/V) Alabama at Tennessee
(R/V) Nebraska at #4 Indiana
#12 Iowa at Illinois
Northern Iowa at Illinois State
#13 North Carolina at #7 Virginia Tech
Ole Miss at Mississippi State
#6 NC State at Syracuse
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!