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This Week in WAC Women's Basketball - March 5

This Week in WAC Women's Basketball - March 5

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NM STATE'S PACK NAMED WAC WOMEN"S BASKETBALL PLAYER OF THE WEEK
NM State's Gia Pack has been named Western Athletic Conference Women's Basketball Player of the Week for Feb. 26 through March 3.
 
Pack, a junior guard from Phoenix (South Mountain HS), nearly averaged a triple-double on the week as the Aggies clinched their fifth-straight WAC regular season title. In a come-from-behind win against Kansas City, she scored 18 points to go with 12 rebounds and seven assists, including eight points in the final quarter to secure the win. On Saturday, she finished one assist shy of a triple-double, scoring 16 points, bring down 11 rebounds and dishing out nine assists in a 77-54 win over visiting Chicago State. In league play, she ranked in the top 10 in points (16.2), rebounds (6.9) and assists (4.2).
 
Other nominees included: California Baptist's Britney Thomas had a pair of double-doubles in road wins at Seattle U and Utah Valley, averaging 14.5 ppg and 14.0 rpg on the week … CSU Bakersfield's Ashley Austin led the 'Runners with 14 points in a defensive win over Grand Canyon … Grand Canyon's Laura Piera led the Lopes with 12 points in a loss at CSU Bakersfield … Kansas City's Ericka Mattingly averaged 21.5 points per game in a pair of road losses at NM State and UT Rio Grande Valley … UT Rio Grande Valley's Madison Northcutt scored in double-digits in a pair of home wins against Chicago State and Kansas City.
 
UP NEXT
It's the final week of the regular season as much of the seeding for the WAC tournament is still up for grabs. NM State knows they will head to #WACvegas as the top seed after clinching the regular season title for the fifth straight season and the Aggies will head out to the west coast early to take on California Baptist on Saturday. CBU will also play host to UT Rio Grande Valley on Thursday in what could be a battle for second place in the standings. UTRTGV doesn't quite have the second seed sewn up quite yet as both Utah Valley and CSU Bakersfield could catch the Vaqueros in the standings. CSUB hosts Seattle U on Thursday and then welcomes Utah Valley to Bakersfield on Saturday in a game that will determine playoff seeding. Seattle U and UVU are also headed to Phoenix to take on Grand Canyon, with the Lopes knowing they will be the sixth seed but still waiting to see who will be the third seed and their first round opponent. The final game features Chicago State heading to Kansas City to take on the Roos.
 
BY THE NUMBERS
California Baptist leads the league in scoring offense (80.4), scoring margin (+13.9), field goal percentage (.434), field goal defense (.367), three-point field goal percentage (.338), rebounding offense (44.7), assists (20.0), assist/turnover ratio (1.3), defensive rebounds (31.9) and three-pointers made (10.0). UT Rio Grande Valley is the leader in scoring defense (61.0) and Utah Valley holds the top spot in free throw percentage (.726) and rebounding defense (36.1).  NM State is the leader in three-point defense (.277), rebounding margin (+3.9) and blocked shots (4.4). CSU Bakersfield holds the top spot in steals (11.5) and turnover margin (+5.07) while Kansas City is the top offensive rebounding team (14.3).
 
Individually, NM State's Brooke Salas is the leader in scoring (19.1) and CBU's Britney Thomas is the leader in rebounding (11.4) and field goal percentage (.568). UMKC's Ericka Mattingly is the leader in assists (6.2), free throw percentage (.807), steals (3.3) and minutes played (35.6). UTRGV's Amara Graham holds the top three-point field goal percentage (.459) while UMKC's Emily Ivory is the leader in three-pointers made (2.7). CSU's Ines Mata Boix is the top shot blocker (1.8) and CBU's Emma Meriggioli holds the top assist/turnover ratio (2.6).
 
In WAC-only play, California Baptist is the leader in scoring offense (81.1), scoring margin (+15.9), field goal percentage (.457), field goal defense (.352), rebounding offense (44.6), assists (20.5), assist/turnover ratio (1.3), defensive rebounds (32.7) and three-pointers made (9.7). UT Rio Grande Valley holds the top scoring defense (58.7) and rebounding defense (33.9). Chicago State is the leader in free throw percentage (.740) and Utah Valley is the leader in three-point field goal percentage (.370).  Regular season champion NM State is tops in three-point defense (.275), blocked shots (4.2) and steals (11.3) and Kansas City is the leader in rebounding margin (+5.3) and offensive rebounds (14.5). CSU Bakersfield holds the top turnover margin (+5.07).
 
Individually, NM State's Salas is the leader in scoring (19.3) and rebounding (12.1). CBU's Thomas has the best field goal percentage (.602) and she also leads the league in blocked shots (1.6) while teammates Meriggioli and Lexy Ram are the leaders in assist/turnover ratio (2.7) and three-point percentage (.478) respectivcely. UMKC's Mattingly holds the top spot in assists (5.9), free throw percentage (.804), steals (3.5) and minutes played (35.7). UMKC's Ivory is the leader in three-pointers made (3.1).
 
ON TOP OF THE WAC
With a win at UT Rio Grande Valley on Feb. 23, NM State clinched at least a share of the WAC regular season title and the top seed in the upcoming WAC Tournament for the fifth consecutive season. The Aggies then clinched sole possesion of the regular season title on Feb. 28 with a come-from-behind win over Kansas City.
 
SHE'S SMART
Already one of the top three-point shooters in the WAC, California Baptist senior Emma Meriggioli is also among the top students as well as the Lancer was named Google Cloud Academic All-District® by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). Mariggioli, an elementary education major, holds a 3.92 cumulative grade-point average in her time at CBU. She was named Second Team Academic All-District and was the WAC's lone honoree. 
 
SENSATIONAL SALAS
NM State senior Brooke Salas has already moved into the top ten in several career categories in the WAC record book. The guard is currently tied for seventh all-time in total points (1,848), fifth in field goals made (708), tied for seventh in rebounds (901) and ninth in blocks (149). In WAC-only play, Salas is tied for tenth in total points (877), sixth in field goals made (333) and eighth in rebounds (462).
 
MILESTONE WIN
California Baptist head coach Jarrod Olson earned his 300th career win on Feb. 9 in a double-overtime win over Kansas City. Over half of his wins have come at CBU after beginning his collegiate head coaching career at Florida Southern.
 
FREE BASKETBALL!!!
Grand Canyon's triple-overtime win over Seattle U on Jan. 5 was the eighth three-overtime game featuring a WAC school in conference history and the fifth in WAC play. The record for longest women's basketball game in WAC history is a quadruple-overtime game on Jan. 25, 1997 that saw SMU earn a 127-125 win over TCU.
 
MILLENIUM CLUB
CSU Bakersfield senior Alexxus Gilbert became the latest WAC player to score 1,000 career points, reaching the milestone on Feb. 24 at California Baptist. She joins Kansas City senior Kristen Moore and NM State teammates Brooke Salas and Gia Pack as the only active 1,000-point scoreres in the WAC.
 
LANCING THE RECORD BOOK
While California Baptist is only in its first year in the WAC, the Lancers have been making an impact on the record book this season. CBU's 133-43 win over Westcliff on Jan. 17 set new conference marks  for most points in a game, scoring margin, field goals made and three-pointers made. On Jan. 31, the Lancers set a new conference record for three-point attempts with 44 in an 83-54 win over Utah Valley. Just two days later, junior Britney Thomas tied the conference mark for field goals in a game with 17 en route to 39 points in a win over Seattle U.
 
TRIPLE THE FUN
Kansas City guard Ericka Mattingly recorded the seventh triple-double in WAC history on Nov. 29, scoring 15 points to go with 10 rebounds and 12 assists in a win over Peru State. NM State guard Brooke Salas got in on the fun on Dec. 21, earning her first career triple-double in a win over Alcorn State, scoring 32 points to go along with 22 rebounds and 11 blocks. Mattingly did it again on Feb. 9 in a double-overtime loss to California Baptist, scoring 28 points to go with 14 rebounds and 10 assists to give her two for the season.
 
STORMING BACK
Down 59-52 with 5:03 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Kansas City Roos put together a 17-0 run on the road to earn a 69-59 win at North Dakota State on Dec. 2.
 
STAT LEADERS BACK
The statistical leaderboard may see some new names rising up this season but it won't be without some familiar faces.
 
On the scoring list, NM State's Brooke Salas was the leading scorer at 19.1 points per game.  Salas is also the top returner in free throw shooting (.835), steals (2.2), three-point field goal percentage (.383) and three-pointers made (1.7). Teammate Gia Pack was third at 16.0 ppg. Chicago State's Ines Mata Boix is the top returning rebounder, having ranked second last season at 8.2 per game, as well as shot blocker, having led the league last season with 2.0 per game. Kansas City's Kristen Moore ranked third last season in field goal percentage at .506. There will be a new assist leader this year as Seattle U's Kamira Sanders is the top returner, having ranked seventh last season with 3.3 per game. 
 
PRESEASON COACHES POLL
NM State is the favorite to win the 2018-19 Western Athletic Conference women's basketball title and the Aggies' Brooke Salas was selected WAC Preseason Player of the Year in a vote of the league's nine head coaches, who could not vote for their own team or players.
 
The Aggies, who won their fourth-straight WAC regular season title last season, received 62 points and seven first-place votes in the preseason poll. CSU Bakersfield picked up the remaining first two votes for a total of 56 points. Defending tournament champion Seattle U was picked third with 49 points and Grand Canyon took fourth with 45 points. Kansas City and UT Rio Grande Valley tied for fifth with 33 points each. California Baptist was selected seventh in its inaugural WAC season, followed by Utah Valley and Chicago State.
 
Salas leads the list of Preseason All-WAC honorees. Joining her on the first team are teammate Gia Pack, CSU Bakersfield's Alexxus Gilbert, Kansas City's Kristen Moore and Seattle U's Kamira Sanders.
 
Second team selections include CSU Bakersfield's Vanessa Austin and Jazmine Johnson, Grand Canyon's AJ Cephas and Laura Piera and UT Rio Grande Valley's Quynne Huggins.
 
PRESEASON MEDIA POLL
The Western Athletic Conference women's basketball media have selected NM State as the preseason favorite to repeat as conference champions in 2018-19 and the Aggies' Brooke Salas as the WAC Preseason Player of the Year.
 
The Aggies earned nine first-place votes in the media poll to collect 81 points to top the poll. CSU Bakersfield is second with 69 points, followed by Seattle U in third with 63 points. Grand Canyon is fourth with 46 points. Kansas City and Utah Valley are tied for fifth with 36 points, followed by UT Rio Grande Valley in seventh, California Baptist in eighth and Chicago State in ninth.
 
Salas leads the list of Preseason All-WAC honorees. Joining her on the first team are teammate Gia Pack, CSU Bakersfield's Jazmine Johnson, Kansas City's Kristen Moore and Seattle U's Kamira Sanders.
 
Second team selections include CSU Bakersfield's Vanessa Austin and Alexxus Gilbert, UT Rio Grande Valley's Quynne Huggins, Chicago State's Ines Mata Boix and California Baptist's Lexy Ram.
 
RETURNING ALL-CONFERENCE PLAYERS
Just two of five First Team All-WAC players from last season return for the 2017-18 season as WAC Preseason Player of the Year Brooke Salas and her NM State teammate Gia Pack return for this season. No second team honoreers return but Salas and CSU Bakersfield's Jazmine Johnson return from the All-Defensive Team.
 
NEW LEADERS
Three head coaches will experience the WAC for the first time this season. California Baptist's Jarrod Olson leads the Lancers into Division I after posting a 93-13 record in five years at the Division II level. UT Rio Grande Valley's Lane Lord also makes the transition from Division II to Division I, coming to the valley from Pittsburg State, where he held a 231-102 record in 11 seasons. Chicago State hired Misty Opat after a successful run at Rock Valley College, where she won four NJCAA national championships.
 
WAC ATTITUDE ON ALTITUDE
The WAC Digital Network is producing a 30-minute WAC Basketball Preview Show in advance of the upcoming season. Altitude Sports Network will air the show 14 times during the month of November.
 
WDN on-air talent Rachel Vigil is the host. Vigil will have on-set interviews with NM State men's basketball coach Chris Jans and NM State women's basketball coach Brooke Atkinson as the Aggies are picked to win the WAC in both coaches' polls. There will also be features on players in the pros and Midnight Madness celebrations as the WAC starts its 57th season of basketball competition next month.
 
LETTERWINNER/STARTER CAPSULE
There will be a bit of new blood in the WAC this season but the game won't be without some familiar faces.  Four of nine schools return a majority of their starters with both CSU Bakersfield and UT Rio Grande Valley bringing back four starters from last season. California Baptist and preseason favorite NM State each return three starters. On the other end, Kansas City returns just one letterwinner while Grand Canyon will have a whole new starting five this season.
 
KEY NON-CONFERENCE MATCHUPS
This season, WAC teams will face some tough competition in the non-conference portion of the schedule, with six games against NCAA Tournament participants and 10 against Women's National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) participants. The complete list is below.
 
Games vs. NCAA Teams
Nov. 28 - California Baptist at CSUN
Dec. 6 - Kansas City at Missouri
Dec. 20 - Texas at UT Rio Grande Valley
Dec. 29 - UT Rio Grande Valley at Texas A&M
Dec. 29 - CSU Bakersfield at Oregon State
Dec. 31 - UT Rio Grande Valley at Baylor
 
Games vs. WNIT Teams
Nov. 6 - Wright State at CSU Bakersfield
Nov. 18 - Kansas City at Kansas State
Nov. 20 - UAB at Chicago State
Nov. 23 - George Mason at Kansas City
Nov. 26 - Seattle U at Utah
Dec. 1 - NM State at New Mexico
Dec. 1 - Utah Valley at Utah
Dec. 9 - Seattle U at UC Davis
Dec. 15 - New Mexico at NM State
Dec. 21 - Louisiana Tech at Kansas City
 
WELCOME TO THE WAC
California Baptist joins the Western Athletic Conference as a full-time member in 2018-19. The Lancers won the NCAA Division II Learfield Cup in 2017-18. They will begin their four year transition process to Division 1. This will make them ineligible to compete in post season tournaments (WAC and NCAA) until 2022-2023 season. 
 
ORLEANS ARENA IN LAS VEGAS TO HOST 2019 WAC TOURNAMENT
The 2019 WAC Basketball Tournament returns to the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas for the eighth year in a row. This year's tournament includes all eight teams and will be held Wednesday-Saturday, March 13-16.
 
COMING TO YOU LIVE
The WAC Digital Network will broadcast 97 regular season women's basketball games. In addition, the WDN will bring you the 2019 WAC Basketball Tournament at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on ESPN+.