Action tipped off last week for women’s basketball in the Big Ten as all but three of the 14 teams in the league came away with at least one victory. In the case of half of those 14 squads, they remained undefeated.
The Big Ten currently has five teams ranked among the Top 25 in the country with Maryland and Ohio State among the group of teams in the top 10. The defending conference champion Terrapins destroyed UMass Lowell, 100-44, in their only contest of the week, while the Buckeyes split their pair of clashes. The loss came in a 92-80 home battle against South Carolina, currently ranked third in the coaches poll.
The key to Maryland’s success lies in the duo of Brionna Jones and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough. Last year, they averaged almost a combined 35 points per game. Walker-Kimbrough is deadly from outside, while Jones is equally dangerous in the paint. Both essentially made cameo appearances in the Lowell game, considering the Terps had a 34-5 lead after one quarter.
Ohio State has conference Player of the Year candidate Kelsey Mitchell, who picked up where she left off last year by averaging 25.3 points per game in her two contests. Helping the Buckeyes on the boards was redshirt junior Stephanie Mavunga, who had transferred from North Carolina, hauled down 23 boards in the two games.
Iowa sophomore Megan Gustafson collected a pair of double-doubles during a 2-0 week for the Hawkeyes. The center-forward is currently averaging 19.5 points and 11.5 rebounds, numbers that helped her capture Player of the Week accolades.
In Lincoln, Jessica Shepard dominated the Nebraska Cornhuskers’ 71-53 win over UT-Rio Grande in the WNIT by scoring 15 and collecting 15 boards. For good measure, she capped the first half by nailing a 60-foot prayer at the buzzer.
Giving Gustafson stiff competition for that award was Michigan newcomer Kysre Gondrezick. The freshman guard flourished in her baptism to the collegiate game by averaging 15.5 points and handing out 4.5 assists per game in the Wolverines’ two victories. Not surprisingly, she was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week.
Gondrezick’s partner in the Michigan backcourt, junior Katelynn Flaherty, also made a strong push for recognition by averaging 18.5 points per game, connecting on her field goals at a 58 percent clip.
Ann Arbor wasn’t the only place in the state of Michigan where guard play excelled. In East Lansing, Michigan State senior guard Tori Jankoska poured in 48 points in her two games, helping the Spartans match their in-state rivals with a pair of victories.
Given the level of competition at this time of year, it’s not surprising that breaking the century mark on the scoreboard is something that happens more frequently. Last week, it happened six times, yet the Wisconsin Badgers ended up dropping a 103-100 decision at home to St. Francis (PA). The scoring effort marked the first time in nearly 12 years that the Badgers had gone past that threshold.