Before South Carolina even takes the ground at Gampel Pavilion on Monday for a showdown with UConn, the Gamecocks are again the place they began this season: at No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25. With in the past top-ranked Louisville shedding remaining Monday and the crew that beat the Cardinals — then-No. Four NC State — then falling to North Carolina on Sunday, South Carolina used to be bumped as much as No. 1 in this week’s ballot.
Regardless of rating, UConn trainer Geno Auriemma already is aware of how tricky this recreation will likely be for his Huskies, which moved up a place to No. 2. And a large a part of that will likely be going through South Carolina 6-foot-Five sophomore put up participant Aliyah Boston and the Gamecocks’ protection.
“I feel Aliyah has progressed such a lot from senior in highschool to the place she is these days,” Auriemma mentioned. “Her ballhandling, her taking pictures, her decision-making with the ball, defensively — I simply assume she’s enjoying an actual, actual excessive stage at the moment. And I do not see anyone that has performed that place higher than she has for the reason that season began, that is needless to say.”
Auriemma additionally complimented his personal 6-foot-Five ahead, Olivia Nelson-Ododa, for her well-rounded recreation in Friday’s 87-58 victory over Marquette.
Monday’s top-five showdown will come with a number of different intriguing matchups, together with how UConn’s freshman guards Paige Bueckers and Nika Mühl reply to the most efficient perimeter protection they have got confronted to this point, led by means of sophomores Zia Cooke and Brea Beal and junior Destanni Henderson.
UConn allowed Arkansas, any other SEC opponent, to shoot 51.6% from the sphere in a 90-87 loss on Jan. 28. Will UConn’s protection display a large number of enlargement since then? Or will the Gamecocks’ protection rule to offer this system its first win at the highway in opposition to UConn and moment victory general as opposed to the Huskies after remaining season’s leap forward sequence victory in Columbia, South Carolina?
That’s what Boston — who had 13 issues and 12 rebounds in opposition to the Huskies remaining February — will likely be aiming for. She is a part of what we will name the defensive dozen: 12 of the most efficient players in the rustic on that aspect of the ball.
Best put up defenders
Aliyah Boston, South Carolina: It’s no longer simply her prodigious bodily presents but in addition the way in which she communicates. Gamecocks trainer Dawn Staley mentioned Boston is “at all times speaking, at all times working out what our warring parties are doing. She sees that it is actually useful to the entire players she’s at the flooring with, so she’s louder, extra lively.” The ahead is averaging 11.Four rebounds and three.1 blocks.
Kamilla Cardoso, Syracuse, heart: She is only a freshman, however the 6-foot-7 heart already has made a giant have an effect on. She is main the Orange in scoring (15.Three issues according to recreation), rebounding (8.7) and blocks. Her 3.1 blocks according to recreation places her in the highest 10 in the rustic, and she modifies many different pictures. She is the one freshman some of the 10 finalists for the Lisa Leslie Award honoring the country’s peak heart.
Charli Collier, Texas: Playing for Vic Schaefer has helped Collier price her protection extra, and that is the reason one of the facets of her recreation that she has increased this season. Collier does not block a large number of pictures like some facilities (she has 19 this season), however she is helping anchor the protection inside of and is averaging 12.Four rebounds, to head with 21.Nine issues according to recreation at the offensive finish.
N’dea Jones, Texas A&M: She is a type of players who has a nostril for the ball, and when the Aggies want a large rebound, the ahead is in most cases the one that will get it. Jones is averaging 10.Eight rebounds according to recreation, and he or she has had two video games this season in which she grabbed 18 forums. At 6-foot-2, Jones’ period and quickness lend a hand her versatility on protection too.
Natasha Mack, Oklahoma State: Mack was the college’s profession blocks chief (177) Saturday in simply her 46th recreation for the Cowgirls. A junior college switch, Mack is averaging a Division I-best 4.2 blocks according to recreation, and the ahead’s talent to shield guards as properly provides to her elite standing. She’s additionally averaging 19.Four issues and 12.6 rebounds according to recreation.
Michaela Onyenwere, UCLA: The ahead is undersized at 6 ft, however that does not prevent Onyenwere from effectively protecting put up players larger than her. It’s no longer simply her athleticism, however her tenacity that is helping. The senior is averaging a career-high 8.Eight rebounds according to recreation. She is a huge explanation why the Bruins, normally identified extra for his or her offense, also are in the higher part of the Pac-12 in protection (58.Eight PPG allowed).
Best perimeter defenders
Veronica Burton, Northwestern The reigning Big Ten defensive participant of the 12 months is still one of the most peak perimeter defenders in the rustic. Averaging 4.2 steals according to recreation, she leads the Big Ten and ranks moment in Division I (and primary amongst Power Five convention players). Burton could also be main the Wildcats in scoring (17.Nine PPG) and assists (4.Nine APG).
Aari McDonald, Arizona: She isn’t just one of the most Pac-12’s leaders in scoring (18.8) and assists (4.8), but in addition in steals (2.5). Like Burton, McDonald has lockdown defensive talent, and her power fuels Arizona. The Wildcats had been on a COVID-19 pause however are set to tackle Oregon on Monday (ESPN2/ESPN App, 7 p.m. ET) in their first recreation since Jan. 22.
Chasity Patterson, Kentucky: She leads the SEC — at all times identified for remarkable perimeter defenders — in steals at 3.Five according to recreation, which is tied for fourth in Division I. Patterson could also be moment at the crew in scoring (12.6 PPG) and leads the Wildcats in assists (3.2 AGP). Coach Kyra Elzy has mentioned she’s toughest on her level guard of somebody at the crew, however Patterson is responding with a career-best season.
DiDi Richards, Baylor: Last 12 months’s nationwide defensive participant of the 12 months, the 6-foot-1 Richards is at all times very disruptive at the perimeter together with her period and lateral motion. Coach Kim Mulkey mentioned Richards is likely one of the splendid defenders she has coached: “She works at it. To be an excellent defensive participant, it must be inside of your soul. It must be a non-public factor. A large number of it’s only will to do it.”
Mykasa Robinson, Louisville: She has began simply seven video games this season however makes this checklist because the quintessential “do the little issues” participant whose calling card is protection. Louisville megastar Dana Evans credit Robinson with bringing scrappiness to what’s perennially one of the most ACC’s peak defenses. Robinson has performed 35 and 32 mins in Louisville’s previous two video games, getting 8 rebounds in each and every.
Anna Wilson, Stanford: Coach Tara VanDerveer ceaselessly says after video games how key Wilson is to the Cardinal’s protection. The fifth-year senior has develop into a full-time starter due to her protection; she credit her revel in and preparation. This is likely one of the Cardinal’s splendid defensive groups; they lead the Pac-12 in scoring protection (54.2 PPG) and feature held 4 in their previous 5 foes beneath 50 issues.
Louisville guard Dana Evans knocks down the take hold of 3-pointer giving the Cardinals a 4-point lead with underneath a minute closing.
Player of the week: Dana Evans, Louisville
Yes, the Cardinals are anticipated to drop from the No. 1 rating after their first lack of the season, however Evans used to be good in that recreation and in Louisville’s wins over Boston College and Notre Dame. The reigning ACC participant of the 12 months averaged 26.Three issues, 3.Zero rebounds and three.7 assists. And as she confirmed once more together with her 5 issues in the general mins of the 71-65 win over the Irish, crunch time is Evans time.
Shoutouts additionally to Iowa’s Caitlin Clark (30, 30) and UConn’s Paige Bueckers (32, 30), beginners guards who each and every hit the 30-point mark two times.
Team of the week: Northwestern
The Wildcats dissatisfied No. 11 Ohio State with a robust defensive effort, preserving the Buckeyes to 57 issues, their second-lowest general this season. Veronica Burton simply ignored a triple-double with 20 issues, 15 rebounds and 9 assists. Then Northwestern adopted that with a 63-60 win at Michigan State, with Burton getting 19 issues and fellow guard Lindsey Pulliam 22. The Wildcats have gained seven in their previous 8.
Coach of the week: Aaron Johnston, South Dakota State
Both the No. 23 Jackrabbits and rival South Dakota got here into their back-to-back weekend video games undefeated in the Summit League. But South Dakota State prevailed 64-45 on Friday, and 80-75 on Saturday (each video games have been on the Jackrabbits’ Frost Arena). Junior ahead Myah Selland persisted her terrific season with a blended 43 issues and 10 assists. And Johnston — who’s in his 21st season in Brookings, South Dakota — assists in keeping on rolling. His squad misplaced simply 5 convention video games during the last 3 years and, at 8-0, is taking a look to run the desk this season.
Win of the week: North Carolina
Wearing darkish blue, no longer Carolina blue, uniforms at house on Sunday — they regarded sharp — the Tar Heels beat the crew that knocked off the No. 1 crew remaining Monday. In a large contention recreation, North Carolina were given a key victory for its NCAA event hopes, scary No. Four NC State 76-69. The Tar Heels nonetheless have some paintings to do, as they are 9-Eight and had misplaced six of 7 prior to Sunday. But it is a just right win to have on their résumé.