Well, we’re onto the back nine of the 2022-23 women’s basketball season, which has had a little of everything so far. Chelsea Mendelson and I offer four takeaways that have impressed us in the first half of WAC play.
1. Fabulous Freshman
Through 12 weeks of the 2022-23 regular season, two freshmen have combined to win nine Freshman of the Week honors. Both players are also right in the thick of the Player of the Year race.
CBU’s Grace Schmidt won her fifth award (and four of the last five) this week. Schmidt is averaging 16.5 points and 3.5 rebounds for the Lancers. CBU swept a Texas two-step consisting of wins at UT Arlington and Stephen F. Austin.
Right behind Schmidt, with four awards, is Stephen F. Austin’s Jordan Harrison. Harrison is averaging 11.0 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 5.0 assists while shooting 43.5 percent from the field along with 36 percent from 3-point range. So far, Harrison is the only freshman to win the award three weeks in a row.
Jordan Harrison beats the first quarter buzzer as @SFAWBB leads UTA 25-20 after one in the Nac! pic.twitter.com/QBizria4Tr
— The Western Athletic Conference (@WACsports) January 21, 2023
2. Competitive Equity
This is a term used to describe how we form high school playoff divisions in my home state of California. However, through five weeks of WAC play, it’s also a perfect adjective to describe our conference regular season thus far. With 58 games under our belts, the average margin of victory is 11.6 points with six days where the average was under single digits.
Here’s how it’s broken down:
0-10 points: 33 games
11-20 points: 21 games
21-plus points: 4 games
There have been three overtime games so far with GCU (1-1), New Mexico State (1-1), and Utah Valley (1-1) having appeared in two.
3. Best Newcomers
As we did with the Best Newcomers article, this is chosen from players that are new to their team AND/OR the WAC. This also does not include freshmen. There are plenty of players to choose from, but these three stood out.
Olivia Lane- GCU
Lane is one of Chelsea’s preseason picks for Newcomer of the Year, and so far she is certainly in the running. She sat out the beginning of the season due to injury, but she hasn’t missed a beat since. Lane’s averaging 10.9 points and 5.1 rebounds. She’s also shooting over 45 percent from the field and nearly 82 percent from the line. Lane also recently broke the GCU D1-era record for rebounds in a single game with 19 against NMSU. The transfer from North Dakota has been key in close games for the Lopes both offensively and defensively. She definitely has a bright future in the purple and white.
Iyana Dorsey- UTRGV
Currently second in the WAC in scoring, Dorsey is having herself quite the season in her first year as a Vaquero. She’s averaging 16.9 points and has had seven 20-plus point performances this year. This includes three games where she scored 30-plus points. The transfer from Tarleton is an absolute offensive weapon. Dorsey has been one of the hardest players to stop in the WAC.
Cherita Daugherty- SUU
Daugherty is a huge reason why the Thunderbirds are sitting atop the WAC undefeated in conference play. After 19 games, the Vancouver, Washington native is averaging 14.7 points per game, placing her 5th in the WAC. She’s also grabbing 5.6 rebounds a game and has had five 20-plus point performances, including a 22 and 12 double-double at NAU. When she and her squad are firing on all cylinders, they’re nearly impossible to beat.
4. Biggest Surprise So Far
SUU Not Only Atop the Conference, but 8-0???
We’ve said it over and over again, but preseason, no one expected this team to have a season anywhere near the one that they are. The coaches’ poll had the T-Birds at 6th, and the media had them at 8th. They’ve had some close calls against great teams. But, as it stands, SUU is clearly the squad to beat with a two-game lead at the turn. Will they be able to keep this run and repeat what the Ladyjacks of SFA did just a year ago, winning the regular season title in their inaugural campaign? Can they do what none of us thought possible and run the table? We’ll find out in a few weeks.
The Lady Mavs are Massively Underperforming…
UTA is in the opposite situation of SUU. The Lady Mavs were picked 2nd in both the coach and media preseason polls. Right now, they’re 9th in the WAC Standings, tied for 6th in the Resume Seeding System, and 9th in our most recent Power Rankings. A 3-6 record was unexpected from the team that gave 3-seed Iowa State a scare in the first round of the NCAA Tournament just under a year ago.
Starr Jacobs, Kayla White, and Jireh Washington are all averaging over 11 points per game. But the reigning Sun Belt Conference champs still aren’t doing well in their transition into the WAC. They’re towards the bottom of the conference in nearly every stat, especially offensively. The Lady Mavs are simply struggling to stay afloat in a conference full of heavy hitters. We can safely say no one saw this coming.
Aggies on the rise…
The last couple of years were rough on New Mexico State’s women’s basketball team. This led athletic director Mario Moccia to not renew the contract of Brooke Atkinson who had spent more than a decade in Las Cruces.
In 2022-23, the Aggies were picked 10th by the coaches poll and 12th by the media poll. At the midway point of conference play, first-year head coach Jody Adams has the Aggies at 6-3 so far and in 4th place. New Mexico State’s three losses have been by a combined eight points. And, at the halfway mark, they’ve matched last year’s win total from WAC play with the same group that finished 6-12 a season ago with an early conference tournament exit.
Update – Jody Adams and the Aggies just improved to 7-3 in WAC play with a big road win at California Baptist on Thursday morning.
Grinder of a win for @NMStateWBB on the road today!@coachjodyadams squad comes home Saturday for a big one vs @GCU_WBB. Still in the hunt in the @WACsports Title race at 7-3.
Fun to watch!pic.twitter.com/gWwJ81AHee
— Adam Young (@youngpbp) February 2, 2023