Wins have been difficult to come by for most of the women’s teams in the Western Athletic Conference this season as only three teams have managed overall winning records.
League-leading Kansas City, which defeated California Baptist 75-64 in its only game last week, shares the top spot with Utah Valley. Both the Kangaroos and Wolverines are 5-2 in league play. Kansas City is 12-9 on the year, while UVU checks in at 8-11 through 19 games in 2019-20.
Kansas City used its size advantage in turning back the Lancers last week. The Kangeroos outrebounded the visitors by 25 en route to its win in Swinney Center to avenge a 95-92 loss to California Baptist last year at home.
Cristina Soriano paced the victors with 17 points, 13 rebounds and six assists on her way to collecting her seventh double-double of the season. Teammates Ericka Mattingly and Jonaie Johnson added 15 and 12 points, respectively, in the winning effort.
Bakersfield and Grand Canyon, which are tied for third, along with New Mexico State, are the other two WAC teams with winning conference marks this year. The Roadrunners are 12-7 on the year and the Antelopes are 9-8. The Aggies, meanwhile, sit at 7-12 on the season.
Bakersfield split its two games last week. The Roadrunners slipped past Utah Valley 55-53 before dropping a 63-57 decision to Seattle. Grand Canyon, meanwhile, swept a pair of games by downing Seattle 56-48 and defeating Utah Valley 66-59.
Bakersfield and Utah Valley played a thriller in Bakersfield. The game was tied four times in the final quarter of play and the lead changed hands four times as both teams saw eight-point lead go by the wayside.
Andie Easley’s buzzer-beater proved to be the difference as the Roadrunners emerged with the win.
GCU’s freshman trio of Mae Bryant, Jada Holland and Tavia Rowell combined for 42 of the Lopes’ 66 points in the win against Utah Valley. Bryant scored a season-high 16 points in the win, while Holland and Rowell chipped in with 15 and 11 points, respectively.
New Mexico State, which plays at Grand Canyon on Saturday, won its lone encounter a week ago by getting past UT Rio Grande Valley 76-75 in overtime. Adrianna Henderson’s layup with 0.2 seconds left in overtime proved to be the game-winner for the Aggies. Standout Gia Pack led the way on the night with 26 points and 11 rebounds and is averaging 27 points and 13.3 rebounds over her last three games heading into this week’s pair of games.
WAC Marquee Game of the Week
New Mexico State at Bakersfield
When: Thursday, Jan. 30, 8 p.m.
Where: Icardo Center (3,497)
NEW MEXICO STATE AGGIES: New Mexico State boasts one of the most dynamic players in the Western Athletic Conference this season in the form of Gia Pack (5-10, Sr. G), who leads the Aggies in virtually every statistical category. She is averaging a team-best 18.7 points per game and tops the team with 9.4 rebounds per game so far this season after starting all 19 games heading into Thursday’s clash against the Roadrunners.
She is also the team leader in assists (53), steals (27) and blocked shots (six).
Aaliyah Prince (5-8, RS, Jr., G) is the only other Roadrunner that is averaging in double figures in scoring as she is chipping in with 11.0 points of her own per contest while ranking fourth in rebounding with 3.1 per game. Her 27 assists ranks her third on the team with two other players and her 21 steals are also the third most on the team this season.
BAKERSFIELD ROADRUNNERS: Bakersfield, which used a modest six-game winning streak earlier this season, came away with wins in each of its first three conference games. The Roadrunners, however, have managed just one win in their last three conference games and will be looking to get back on the winning side of the ledger against the Aggies.
Jayden Eggelston (6-1, RS, So., F) is one of just two players averaging in double figures in scoring for the Roadrunners. She is scoring at a 12.3 points per game clip so far this season and is third on the team with 5.7 rebounds per outing. Eggelston is also tied for second on the team with 28 steals and is third in assists with 31.
Teammate Ashley Austin (5-5, So., G) is the other double-digit scorer after averaging 10.6 points through the first 19 games this season. Austin, like Eggelston, has recorded 28 steals on the year and her 30 assists is No. 4 on the team in that category heading into Thursday’s clash against the Aggies.
WAC Marquee Game of the Week
New Mexico State at Grand Canyon
When: Saturday, Feb. 1, 2 p.m.
Where: GCU Arena (7,000)
Television: WAC Digital Network (WDN)
NEW MEXICO STATE AGGIES: See Above
GRAND CANYON ANTELOPES: Winning four of their last five games, the Antelopes have climbed back into contention in the hunt for the Western Athletic Conference regular-season championship. A pair of victories at home this week would propel GCU into a likely tie with Kansas City for the top spot in the league standings.
Da’jah Daniel (6-4, Sr. F) leads the Antelopes win scoring and rebounding with 12.9 points and 10.1 rebounds so far this season. An active player, Daniel has already tallied 15 assists and 12 steals after starting all 17 games in her final collegiate season.
Jada Holland (5-6, Fr., G) has emerged as one of the top newcomers in the league this season. She is averaging 10.4 points per game and her 3.6 rebounds are the fourth most on the team so far this season. A high-octane type of player on both ends of the court, Holland, a junior college transfer prior to the 2018-19 season, leads the team with 91 assists and also tops the squad with 25 steals on the year.
Grand Canyon is coached by former Stanford standout Nicole Powell. A three-time All-American for the Cardinal, Powell, the 2000 Pac 10 freshman of the year, was also a final for the James Naismith Player of the Year Award each of her final three seasons at Stanford.
She scored more than 2,000 points and grabbed more than 1,000 rebounds during her four years with the Cardinal while helping her teams post a 105-26 record during her time at the school.
Powell was the third overall pick in the 2004 WNBA Draft by the Charlotte Sting and was a member of the Sacramento Monarchs, who won the WNBA championship in 2005. She was the league’s most improved player that season when she led the league in 3-point field goals (66). She also led the WNBA in free throw percentage in 2007 and again in 2009 when she was voted a WNBA All-Star.
2019-20 Western Athletic Conference Women’s Basketball Standings
|New Mexico State||6-6||9-16||316|
|UT Rio Grande Valley||5-7||10-15||317|
Last Week’s Results
California Baptist 80, Chicago State 65
Bakersfield 55, Utah Valley 53
Grand Canyon 56, Seattle 48
New Mexico State 76, UT Rio Grande Valley 75, OT
Grand Canyon 66, Utah Valley 59
Kansas City 75, California Baptist 65
Seattle 63, Bakersfield 57
This Week’s Games
Utah Valley at California Baptist, noon, WAC Digital Network (WDN)
UT Rio Grande Valley at Grand Canyon, 6 p.m., WDN
New Mexico State at Bakersfield, 8 p.m.
Chicago State at Kansas City, 1 p.m., WDN
New Mexico State at Grand Canyon, 2 p.m., WDN
Seattle at California Baptist, 2 p.m., WDN
UT Rio Grande Valley at Bakersfield, 2 p.m.
A native of Bismarck, N.D., Ray is a graduate of North Dakota State University where he began studying athletic training and served as a student trainer for several Bison teams including swimming, wrestling and baseball and was a trainer at the 1979 NCAA national track and field championship meet at the University of Illinois. Ray later worked in the sports information office at NDSU. Following his graduation from NDSU he spent five years in the sports information office at Missouri Western State University and one year in the sports information at Georgia Tech. He has nearly 40 years of writing experience as a sports editor at several newspapers and has received numerous awards for his writing over the years. A noted sports historian, Ray is currently an assistant editor at Amateur Wrestling News.