It’s a new year and teams spent the past few days beefing up their conference standings and résumés for March Madness. There was a dazzling New Year’s Eve matinee and two 33-point performances by national player of the year contenders to highlight week 6. One of those showings earned high praise by WNBA star Tamika Catchings.
The full schedule for the week is here.
Rutgers, Iowa stars put on New Year’s Eve show
Rutgers redshirt senior Arella Guirantes and Iowa freshman Caitlin Clark put on a show on the final day of 2020. They combined for 62 points during Iowa’s 90-84 Big Ten victory.
Guirantes had a game-high 34 points for Rutgers with five assists, four steals and a block. The 5-foot-11 guard was 5-of-11 from 3-point range, both season highs. The stat-filling senior averages 22.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 3.1 steals and 2.4 blocks per game.
Clark had 28 points, six rebounds and six assists to lead Iowa. McKenna Warnock scored 18 with nine rebounds and Monika Czinano scored 17.
Clark, a 6-foot guard, is already a three-time Big Ten Conference Player of the Week. She had her first triple-double of her career against Western Illinois on Dec. 22 with 13 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. Her 27.1 points per game average ranks fourth nationally in Division I.
Rutgers (5-3, 1-3) and Iowa (7-1, 3-1) meet again on Jan. 24 in New Jersey.
Rhyne Howard leads surging Kentucky
Rhyne Howard’s tip shot and-1 with 1:25 remaining in overtime broke the tie for good and led the No. 13 Kentucky Wildcats to a 92-86 win against No. 12 Mississippi State on Sunday.
All the best plays from our overtime win in Starkville! https://t.co/j8lB7FsHJb
— Kentucky WBB (@KentuckyWBB) January 3, 2021
Howard had a double-double of 33 points and 10 rebounds with six assists. She scored 15 points in the fourth quarter and 10 of Kentucky’s 14 total points in overtime. The national player of the year candidate had three of her four 3-pointers in the final quarter. She was 4-for-6 from range altogether, sinking another with 2:37 left in overtime that cut the deficit to one.
WNBA great and Naismith Hall of Fame inductee Tamika Catchings was on the call for ESPN and had high praise for the junior.
— Kentucky WBB (@KentuckyWBB) January 3, 2021
With an earlier win against No. 10 Arkansas, it was the first time Kentucky (9-1, 2-0 SEC) has defeated back-to-back top-15 teams since 2013. The Wildcats also have a win over then-No. 13 Indiana.
They travel to play No. 9 Texas A&M on Thursday and host No. 5 South Carolina on Sunday.
Michaela Onyenwere’s put-back secures win for UCLA
No. 11 UCLA gave No. 8 Oregon its first loss in nearly a full year and its first loss at home in two years when the teams met on Sunday. The Bruins were the last team to win in Eugene, doing it 682 days before Sunday’s contest.
They couldn’t have done it without Michaela Onyenwere, a candidate for national player of the year who dropped 33 on the Ducks. Her final basket was the game-winner in a 73-71 final.
BIG TIME BASKET! 🏀
.@monyenwere_ gets her own miss and puts in the layup to give us the lead! She's got a career-high 33!
📻| https://t.co/FORzK0ZVaQ#GoBruins | 🐻💙💛 | #Elite pic.twitter.com/PgQPdRUAfW
— UCLA W. Basketball (@UCLAWBB) January 3, 2021
It bears repeating: the Pac-12 is a packed affair of teams that can all beat each other on any day. The rundown early in the conference schedule: No. 1 Stanford (6-0), No. 6 Arizona (6-1), No. 8 Oregon (6-1), Washington State (4-1), UCLA (4-2) and Arizona State (3-3).
Aliyah Boston adds to South Carolina résumé
Watch South Carolina (6-1, 1-0 SEC) sophomore, and reigning SEC freshman of the year, Aliyah Boston go coast-to-coast for a jumper that beat the buzzer heading into halftime.
— GamecockWBB (@GamecockWBB) December 31, 2020
Boston scored 19 points in the first half of a 75-59 win over Florida on Thursday to reach 500 in her young career. She’s the 11th fastest to reach the mark in Gamecock history (39 games) and had a career-high 28 points with 16 rebounds, five blocks, three steals and one assist. She had 19 points and 11 rebounds at the half. Zia Cooke scored 12 straight to close third quarter.
News and notes for week 7
Mark the calendar now. No. 4 UConn (6-0, 5-0 Big East) and No. 7 Baylor (8-1, 3-0 Big 12) play on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. ET. ESPN will have the game from Waco, Texas. Each team has four wins in the series that started in the 2010 national semifinals. As with nearly every year since then, both teams are in the conversation for the Final Four. They’ve won a combined six national championships since the 2010-11 season (UConn won four straight from 2013-16; Baylor won in 2012 and 2019).
The NCAA released its first NET rankings on Monday. The top five are Stanford, UConn, Baylor, Oregon and South Carolina. The NET is one of the factors that will go into tournament selection and seeding. The ranking is determined by who a team has played, where they’ve played, how efficient they’ve played and the game result.
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