UMKC has some company atop the Western Athletic Conference women’s basketball standings.
The Kangaroos had little trouble in defeating Chicago State 73-57 on Feb. 1 to improve their record to 6-2 in conference play.
Grand Canyon, meanwhile, moved into a tie for the top spot in the league standings after overcoming a late deficit before defeating visiting UT Rio Grande Valley 62-60 in overtime on Jan. 30. The Antelopes defeated New Mexico State 60-49 two days later thanks to a huge fourth quarter.
GCU is currently on a four-game winning streak.
Bakersfield and Utah Valley are currently tied for third place in the conference standings with 5-3 marks, while UTRGV and NMSU share fifth place with 4-4 league records.
Freshman Mae Bryant connected on a pair of free throws with 1.1 seconds remaining to provide the margin of victory over the Vaqueros as the ‘Lopes overcame an eight-point third quarter deficit.
Laura Piera scored 13 points to lead GCU and Bryant finished with 10 points in the game. Da’Jah Daniel, who pulled down a game-high and season-high 14 rebounds, came close to notching a double-double, but finished with nine points. Jada Holland added nine points of her own in the contest.
Zhane Templeton and Trelynn Tyler scored 12 and 10 points, respectively, to lead UTRGV in scoring.
Daniel did notch her 10th double-double of the season against the Aggies as she scored a team-high 11 points and bettered her previous season-high with 15 rebounds. Bryant also gained a double-double after coming off the bench and scoring 10 points and 10 rebounds in the victory.
Daniel averaged 10 points and 14.5 rebounds in the two games last week and on Monday was voted the WAC player of the week for her effort in the two key wins by her and the ‘Lopes.
Gia Pack, the conference’s leading scorer, was held in check by the ‘Lopes. She finished with a game-high 14 points, but was just five of 18 shooting from the floor.
Piera’s 3-pointer just before the buzzer pulled GCU to within 31-30 at halftime. She connected on another trey to end the third quarter that gave the ‘Lopes a 39-37 lead.
Mariah Mitchell’s field goal with 9:02 remaining in the game tied the game. But, more importantly, it was the impetus of a 12-2 scoring spree that was capped by Piera’s driving layup that increased the GCU lead to 51-43 with just over four minutes left in the contest.
New Mexico State managed to pull to within three points with 90 seconds left, but were forced to foul as the Aggies sought to keep their comeback hopes alive. GCU connected on all six free throw attempts down the stretch to preserve the victory.
WAC Marquee Games of the Week
UMKC at UT Rio Grande Valley
When: Thursday, Feb. 6, 7 p.m.
Where: UTRGV Field House (2,500)
UT RIO GRANDE VALLEY VAQUEROS: UT Rio Grande Valley has played brilliantly at times this season on the way to fashioning a 4-4 conference record and has some high expectations for the second half of the league season that gets underway on Thursday against the league-leading ‘Roos.
The Vaqueros enter the game with a scoring average of 67.5 points per game and are outscoring their opponents on the year by two points per game.
UTRGV has just two players who are scoring in double figures so far this season. Trelynn Tyler (5-8, Jr., G) leads the way with 13.8 points per game and is pulling down 3.9 rebounds per contest for the Vaqueros. Tyler is an outstanding ball handler and ranks second on the team in steals (57) and is tops on the team charts with 43 steals so far.
Jordan Augustus (6-0, Gr., F) checks in with 11.4 points per game leading up to the clash with the Kangaroos. She is leading the team with 7.2 rebounds per game and has already blocked 31 shots on the season.
A third player is hovering near that double figure threshold as Zhane Templeton (5-9, RS, Jr., G) has averaged 9.9 points through her team’s 21 previous games in 2019-20.
UMKC KANGAROOS: Kansas City enters this week’s slate of games riding a three-game winning streak. The stretch began with an impressive 74-53 win on Jan. 18 at Grand Canyon before recent wins against California Baptist (75-65) and Chicago State (73-57), a pair of teams that have combined for a 3-13 record in conference play this season.
The ‘Roos, who are averaging 65.4 points per game, are being led in scoring by Erika Mattingly (5-7, Jr., G), one of the most versatile players in the league. She brings a 15.2 points per game scoring average in Thursday’s game at Rio Grande Valley while also grabbing five rebounds per outing, which is fifth on the team this season. The talented playmaker is also topping the team charts in assists (94) and steals (53).
Emily Ivory (5-5, So., G) and Cristina Soriano (6-5, Sr., F) are also averaging in double figures in scoring. Ivory comes in at 10.6 points per game and Soriano is not far behind with 10.4 points per outing. Ivory ranks fifth on the team with 26 assists this season and has added 19 steals. Soriano, meanwhile, led the team in rebounding (7.6 rpg) while tallying 43 assists and 17 steals so far this season.
UMKC at New Mexico State
When: Saturday, Feb. 8, 2 p.m.
Where: Pan American Center (12,572)
KANSAS CITY KANGAROOS: See above
NEW MEXICO STATE AGGIES: The secret of NMSU’s success is really no secret at all. Just get the ball in the hands of Gia Pack and good things are bound to happen for the Aggies.
Pack (5-10, Sr., G) leads the Western Athletic Conference in scoring with 18.6 points per game. She’s shooting just over 40 percent (142-349) from the floor and is twice as good from the foul line where she has made 63 of her 75 foul shots this season for an 83 percent success rate. She also leads the Aggies in rebounding with 9.3 caroms per contest this season.
Oh, by the way, Pack also leads the way with 54 assists and 34 steals so far this season.
Teammate Aaliyah Prince (5-8, RS, Jr., G) is averaging 10.8 points and 3.0 rebounds per game for the Aggies. Prince is second on the team in steals with 24 and ranks fourth with 28 assists this season.
Western Athletic Conference Women’s Basketball Standings
(thru games of Feb. 1)
1 – Kansas City 6-2 13-9
Grand Canyon 6-2 11-8
3 – Bakersfield 5-3 13-8
Utah Valley 5-3 4-4
5 – UT Rio Grande Valley 4-4 9-12
New Mexico State 4-4 7-14
7 – Seattle 3-5 9-12
8 – California Baptist 2-6 10-12
9 – Chicago State 1-7 1-20
Last Week’s Results
California Baptist 80, Utah Valley 67
Bakersfield 60, New Mexico State 59
Grand Canyon 62, UT Rio Grande Valley 60 (OT)
Grand Canyon 60, New Mexico State 49
Kansas City 73, Chicago State 57
Seattle 83, California Baptist 49
UT Rio Grande Valley 66, Bakersfield 52
This Week’s Games
California Baptist at Bakersfield, noon
Chicago State at New Mexico State, 6 p.m., WDN
Kansas City at UT Rio Grande Valley, 7 p.m. WDN
Chicago State at UT Rio Grande Valley, 11 a.m., WDN
California Baptist at Grand Canyon, 2 p.m., WDN
Kansas City at New Mexico State, 2 p.m., WDN
Utah Valley at Seattle, 3 p.m., WDN
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.