Around the NCAAW Weekly: Belibi brings the slam back

Mississippi State v Stanford: Greater Victoria Invitational
Francesca Belibi (left), at 6’1”, became the first NCAA women’s basketball player to dunk since 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner did it in 2013. | Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images

Francesca Belibi of the Stanford Cardinal brought the dunk back to women’s college basketball on Sunday after a seven-year absence. Earlier in the week, Caitlin Clark — the Iowa Hawkeyes’ fab freshman — was just incredible with back-to-back 30-point games.

“Around the NCAAW Weekly” highlights the notable events of the week. Check out the milestones, surprises, best games and outstanding performances for games played through Sunday, Dec. 13:


No. 1 Stanford Cardinal

Francesca Belibi recorded her first dunk in a college game on Sunday. She is the eighth women’s player to accomplish the feat and first to do so since Brittney Griner of the Baylor Lady Bears in 2013.

Also on Sunday, another member of the Stanford program reached a milestone in the Cardinal’s 83-38 win over the California Golden Bears. With her 1,098th win as Cardinal head coach, Tara VanDerveer tied former Tennessee Lady Volunteers head coach Pat Summitt for most NCAAW Division I wins. VanDerveer will surpass Summitt on Tuesday, Dec. 15, against the Pacific Tigers if Stanford wins.

Iowa Hawkeyes

Hawkeye freshman Caitlin Clark was the No. 4 Hoop Gurlz recruit for the Class of 2020 and she is leading her team to an extent that perhaps no other freshman in the country matches.

Through her first five collegiate games, Clark’s lowest scoring output has been 23 points.

She posted 27 points, 30 points, 34 points and 35 points in the other four games for a scoring average of 29.8 — well ahead of Iowa’s second-leading scorer, Monika Czinano, who is averaging 20.8.

A phenomenal 3-point shooter in high school, Clark has made at least three triples in each of her outings. Her efficiency from beyond the arc has been solid — 18-of-49 (36.7 percent) — and she is finding other ways to score as well. Clark has gotten herself to the free-throw line for 31 attempts and has made 27 of them (87.1 percent).

On top of all that, Clark notched 13 assists on Dec. 2 and she is averaging 6.4 helpers per contest to go with averages of six rebounds and 2.2 steals. Clark leads the team in assists and steals; she is second in rebounds.

Last week, Clark recorded her highest scoring outputs — 34 points and 35 points. In the 34-point affair on Wednesday, she made the game-winning 3-pointer with 22 seconds left to defeat a very good and previously ranked Iowa State Cyclones team. It was a huge rivalry win that put the Hawkeyes at 4-0.

Highlights: Caitlin Clark could not be stopped

Then, on Saturday, Clark’s 35 points weren’t enough to get Iowa the win in another nail-biter, this time against the Michigan State Spartans.

Still, what a week for the home-state freshman out of West Des Moines!

No. 6 Arizona Wildcats

Arizona’s ranking last week (No. 6) was its highest ever.

And on Thursday, the Wildcats notched their biggest margin of victory against their intrastate rival — the Arizona State Sun Devils — since 1998. The win was also their third in a row over the Sun Devils — something they hadn’t accomplished since stretches in the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 seasons. Arizona’s defense led the way, allowing just 37 points: the lowest opponent score for the program since 1976. Arizona’s star player, Aari McDonald, made a career-high-matching five 3-pointers in the contest.

No. 11 UCLA Bruins

Senior forward Michaela Onyenwere surpassed 1,500 career points while scoring 17 in a 102-45 victory over the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos on Wednesday.

No. 23 Texas Longhorns

Junior center Charli Collier surpassed 500 career rebounds while grabbing 11 in a 73-48 win over the Idaho Vandals on Wednesday.

No. 13 Arkansas Razorbacks

Chelsea Dungee now holds the Arkansas women’s basketball record for most made free throws in a career. She was 5-of-6 from the stripe in Sunday’s 105-58 win over the Central Arkansas Sugar Bears.

COVID news

Vanderbilt Commodores

Sophomore guard Demi Washington is out with myocarditis after battling COVID-19. Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle and part of the required treatment is reduced activity. Washington started 11 games last year and averaged 15.6 minutes.

No. 2 Louisville Cardinals

The Cardinals are on pause “indefinitely” after a positive test from within their program. Louisville was supposed to play the North Carolina Tar Heels on Sunday, but that game was postponed.

No. 11 UCLA Bruins

Two freshmen from Australia, Izzy Anstey and Gemma Potter, have so far been denied the opportunity to travel to the U.S. to play for UCLA. Their teammate, Chantel Horvat, was allowed to enter the U.S. because she is a junior. As a result, Anstey and Potter are now part of a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement arguing that the decision to not allow new students to enter the country is “not consistent with law.”


Upset wins over ranked teams

Tuesday: Utah Utes over No. 15 Oregon State Beavers, 85-79

Thursday: Kansas State Wildcats over No. 22 South Dakota State Jackrabbits, 62-53

Saturday: Northern Iowa Panthers over No. 22 South Dakota State Jackrabbits, 65-48

California Golden Bears

The Golden Bears are 0-5 (0-2 Pac-12) with a loss to the San Francisco Dons, who were picked to finish last in the WCC, a 45-point loss to the Stanford Cardinal and a 27-point loss to the Washington Huskies. Their other two losses came to mid-majors in the San Jose State Spartans and CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners.

AP rankings (Dec. 14)

The Top 6 rankings remained intact this week, while the Oregon Ducks moved from No. 8 into a tie for No. 7 with the Baylor Lady Bears. This can be attributed to Oregon’s impressive win over the then-No. 15 Oregon State Beavers.

With two blowout victories, the Arkansas Razorbacks swapped places with the idle Mississippi State Bulldogs, putting them at No. 12 and the Bulldogs at No. 13. Arkansas (7-1) has played in eight games, while Mississippi State (2-1) has suited up just three times.

The Beavers fell from No. 15 to No. 21 due to their upset loss to the Utah Utes and 20-point loss to Oregon. The South Dakota State Jackrabbits, who also lost twice last week, fell from No. 22 to out of the rankings.

The South Florida Bulls played just once last week and defeated the Stetson Hatters in a blowout. But that’s all it took to move them from the first team out to No. 23 — ahead of the Jackrabbits, DePaul Blue Demons and Gonzaga Bulldogs. DePaul’s nine-point win over the Loyola Chicago Ramblers was underwhelming to voters, apparently. And Gonzaga blew out the Wyoming Cowgirls, but beat the Montana Lady Griz by just seven points.

Games of the week

Wednesday: Iowa Hawkeyes 82, Iowa State Cyclones 80

The favored Cyclones led by 14 points at the break and by 17 entering the fourth. After the teams exchanged 2-pointers to start the final frame, Iowa went on a 17-0 run to tie the contest at 75. The run featured three triples from Caitlin Clark, one from McKenna Warnock and one from Kate Martin. The comeback set up a game-winning dagger from Clark, which came with 22 seconds left. Ashley Joens scored a game-high 35 points for Iowa State, but Clark nearly matched her with 34, including the basket that mattered most.

Sunday: No. 4 NC State Wolfpack 75, Boston College Eagles 69

The Wolfpack trailed by 16 with 6:15 minutes to play before staging an incredible comeback. An 8-0 run got things started and, after a made basket by BC, was followed by a 15-0 run that gave NC State a five-point cushion with 32 ticks remaining. Free throws from Raina Perez with 23 seconds remaining made it a two-possession game, for good. Kayla Jones finished with 25 points for the winners, while Elissa Cunane notched a double-double with 23 points and 15 rebounds.

Sunday: San Francisco Dons 102, Fresno State Bulldogs 93 (2OT)

The Dons were picked to finish last in the WCC and Fresno State was picked to finish first in the Mountain West. The Dons led by eight at the break and by seven entering the fourth before the Bulldogs came back with a 22-15 advantage in the final 10 minutes of regulation. Fresno State gained a 3-point lead with 26 seconds remaining on an Aly Gamez free throw, but San Francisco’s Marta Galic knocked down a 3-pointer with 18 seconds left to force overtime. The Bulldogs were then saved by a game-tying layup from Haley Cavinder with three seconds left in the first overtime, but the Dons were able to pull away in the second overtime period. Five players notched at least 20 points in the contest, led by San Francisco’s Lucie Hoskova, who scored 24.

Other top performances

Sophia Wiard: 42 points, five rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks for the Toledo Rockets in a win over the Northern Illinois Huskies on Thursday.

Sam Haiby: 33 points, nine rebounds and four assists for the Nebraska Cornhuskers in a win over the Illinois Fighting Illini on Thursday.

Leilani Correa: 35 points, four rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks for the St. John’s Red Storm in a loss to the Delaware Blue Hens on Thursday.

Sam Lewis: 39 points for the Fairfield Stags in a win over the Siena Saints on Saturday.

Brynna Maxwell: 34 points and six rebounds for the Utah Utes in a win over the Oregon State Beavers on Tuesday.

Best upcoming matchup

No. 9 Kentucky Wildcats (6-0, 0-0 SEC) vs. No. 24 DePaul Blue Demons (2-2, 0-0 Big East)

When: Wednesday, Dec. 16, at 3 p.m. ET

Where: Wintrust Arena in Chicago, IL

How to watch/listen: DePaul Livestream/UK Sports Network

Reason to watch: Kentucky has seemed like a unified bunch in spite of suspensions to Rhyne Howard and Tatyana Wyatt earlier in the season. Can the Wildcats keep the good vibes going? Or will DePaul redeem itself against No. 9 after getting blown out by the No. 2 Louisville Cardinals in its last ranked matchup on Dec. 4?