NCAAW recap: No. 21 Indiana's Mackenzie Holmes, Tennessee's Rennia Davis make early statements

Cassandra NegleyYahoo Sports Contributor
Keep an eye on Indiana, which moved up the rankings in Week 1. (Bobby Goddin/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Keep an eye on Indiana, which moved up the rankings in Week 1. (Bobby Goddin/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The game of the weekend shook up the top eight rankings in the Associated Press Top 25. It was nothing terribly unexpected. South Carolina won the head-to-head against Maryland, never giving up the lead, and deserved to swap spots.

What was more interesting was the slight play in the bottom half of the rankings. Texas opened its season ranked 15th and fell 64-57 to the University of South Florida, which lost in the second round of the NIT last year. The Longhorns fell behind early, but fought back until USF took the lead for good on a 3-pointer with nearly four minutes left.

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The Longhorns dropped seven spots to No. 22 and USF (2-0) moved into No. 25. Presumably, voters saw it as a tightly contested game — neither team stood out starkly in any category — and didn’t want to take too much away from Texas after seeing them play once.

Then there’s Indiana (2-0). The Hoosiers took the largest leap (three spots to No. 21) after dismantling Nicholls State, 111-47, in the second-largest margin of victory in school history (they were five points away from tying it). They scored the first 15 points, went up 35-12 through one quarter — second-most in school history — had a record 33 assists while shooting 63.4 percent.

And as was the case for the teams at the top, it was a freshman leading the way. Mackenzie Holmes scored 22 points to total 37 in 36 minutes off the bench over two games. The 6-foot-3 forward is shooting 83.3 percent (15 of 18), tops of any player with at least 12 attempts, and had 12 rebounds, one off the team high. She has six of the team’s nine blocks and ranks among the league’s best a week in. (South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston leads with 15; the teams meet at Paradise Jam on Thanksgiving.)

Holmes, the No. 53-ranked recruit in the class, is a freshman to watch this season in the Big Ten and beyond.

Tennessee’s Rennia Davis drops 33 vs. Notre Dame

Tennessee has something to prove under first-year head coach Kellie Harper after an uncharacteristically poor tournament showing. The Lady Volunteers won their first game and proved they’re worthy of consideration in the second, defeating No. 15 Notre Dame 74-63 in a Monday night showcase. It came after the team announced pre-game that starting guard Zaay Green is out indefinitely with a torn ACL.

Rennia Davis was unstoppable, leading Tennessee (3-0) to an early lead and ending the night with a double-double of 33 points and 10 rebounds. She became the first Lady Vol to have a double-double against a ranked opponent since Candace Parker, who did it in 2008 against the Irish. The 6-foot-2 junior was 12 of 20 from the floor, including 5 of 9 from 3-point range.

Tennessee went into the half up 36-28, and Davis all but assured a victory with back-to-back 3-pointers out of the break during a 10-0 run. Early in the third quarter, she had almost as many points as the entire Irish squad (24 to 28).

It was only Notre Dame’s fourth loss in its last 115 games (the other three were to UConn) and showed how tough this season will be for the Irish (2-1) after losing all five starters. They’ve also lost two more returners early in the season and have two bench players available right now.

They were destroyed on the glass, 55-28, against the larger Vol squad that is out-rebounding opponents by an average of nearly 53 to 35 through three games. In the first half, Marta Snizek was the only Irish player with more than one rebound at four. Nine of the 10 players for Tennessee had at least one in that span.

Notre Dame shot 28.9 percent in the first half and ended at 31.4 percent with 12 of their 70 shot attempts (45 inside the arc) blocked.

[Muffet McGraw is on a tenacious mission to close the gender gap]

UConn doesn’t win pretty

The University of Connecticut won its opener 72-61 against Cal, but it wasn’t pretty. The Huskies played their first game in four years without Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson, so it’s understandable that the team is looking for its identity.

If it’s going to find one in time to continue its undefeated streak in the American Athletic Conference, it needs to happen against Vanderbilt on Wednesday. The AAC schedule begins against Temple on Nov. 17 and UConn will need to get a grasp on its offense.

The freshmen didn’t have great starts, and all but two of the 72 points came from four players. Plus, they’re still waiting to hear about the appeal filed for Evina Westbrook to play after the NCAA denied her transfer waiver from Tennessee.

It wasn’t all bad, though. Megan Walker had a double-double of 24 points and 10 rebounds. Christyn Williams scored 24, Crystal Dangerfield added 14 and sophomore Olivia Nelson-Ododa did it all.

She finished with 11 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and three steals. UConn will need her to step up with full games like that all season.

Good luck, everyone on Oregon’s schedule 

“‘You play to win the game’ — Herm Edwards” — Sabrina Ionescu, probably.

We’ll note one more thing: Matthew Knight Arena was rocking. OK, and another: Tennessee is the only other college squad to ever defeat Team USA, winning by one point on Nov. 7, 1999. Yet the Lady Vols didn’t go on to win a title the following April, falling to (who else?) UConn and sophomore Sue Bird.

Oregon won its official opener 89-47 against Northeastern on Monday night. Ionescu was on a triple-double watch and Ruthy Hebard had a 21-point, 12-rebound double-double. Satou Sabally is with the German national team for Eurobasket 2021 qualifiers and is missing the first three games.

What to watch ahead of the weekend

The preseason WNIT is underway and the semifinals take place Thursday with a meeting of ranked opponents. No. 7 Oregon State will host No. 18 DePaul after a tight 69-57 win over Pacific on Monday. Senior guard Mikayla Pivec had her second double-double of the season (18 points, 17 rebounds) and is shooting 63 percent over two games.

DePaul, the defending Big East champ, had an easier time against Drexel. Senior forward Bailey Greenberg has 79 points in three games.

The other semifinal is Oklahoma, which missed the NCAA tournament last season for the first time since 1999, and Missouri State, which received votes in the AP poll after defeating then-No. 25 Minnesota. The championship is Sunday.

In another ranked meeting, No. 16 Michigan State will have another shot to improve its ranking with a matchup against No. 15 Notre Dame in South Bend on Thursday. MSU has four of five starters back from a squad that lost to the Irish in the second round of the tournament. The Spartans have outscored their two opponents by a total 109-41 in the second half (86-61 in the first).

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