Five players to watch at the 2016 Pac-12 Women's Basketball Tournament
Being an impact player doesn’t always mean you have to be your team’s leading scorer. But it means that in the big moments you are prepared to step up and deliver.
The Pac-12 is rife with players who will impact their teams’ fortunes in the race for a title. Here is a short list of the players to watch at this year’s Pac-12 tournament, which opens on Thursday:
1. Erica McCall, Stanford. The junior post is coming off the best weekend of her collegiate career. McCall put up back-to-back 25-point scoring games against Oregon State and Oregon and added 18 rebounds against the Ducks on Sunday. The most surprising development was the fact that she hit four 3-pointers in the two games, expanding her game to scary levels for conference competition. McCall has been the Cardinal’s leading scorer in six of their last seven games.
2. Nirra Fields, UCLA. The Bruins senior guard has played more of a supporting role to the by the outstanding season of sophomore point guard Jordin Canada, but Fields’ consistent contributions has made the UCLA backcourt one of the most dynamic in the country. In her Senior Day game on Sunday against Arizona State, Fields scored a game-high 24 points to go with eight rebounds, three assists and four steals in the upset win over the Sun Devils. Fields is leading UCLA in scoring at 16.5 points a game.
3. Quinn Dornstauder, Arizona State. The Sun Devils’ blocks leader has been best known this season as the complement in the paint to Sophie Brunner. But make no mistake, Dornstauder is one of the key pieces to the puzzle for the Sun Devils, who claimed a share of the Pac-12 title this weekend for the first time since 2001. Dornstauder has been surging as a scorer in the past few weeks. Last week, she posted a career-high 25 points in the Sun Devils’ win over Washington. And against UCLA on Sunday, she posted 24 points to go with five rebounds and three blocks.
4. Talia Walton, Washington. The Huskies’ second-leading scorer behind Kelsey Plum, Walton, plays a key role for a team that knows it will get a big scoring night from Plum most of the time and needs to have a second scorer to have the success it wants in Seattle. Walton, the senior forward from Federal Way, Washington, also leads the Huskies with 61 steals. Walton has rebounded from a mid-season shooting slump and put up her best game in weeks, scoring 20 points at home against Utah. Walton is the program’s all-time leading shot-blocker and ranks in the top 10 in scoring, rebounding and 3-pointers made. And she’s looking to end her roller-coaster season on an up note with a second straight trip to the NCAA Tournament.
5. Temi Fagbenle, USC. The Trojans’ senior forward knows she has to lead her team on a long tournament run to get them into the postseason. InSunday’s season finale, Fagbenle, the Nigeria native who transferred to USC from Harvard for her final season of eligibility, was 5 of 6 from the floor for a team-high 12 points. Fagbenle has posted five 20-plus point games this season, including a 26-point game against Washington State on February 14.
Michelle Smith is a contributing writer for pac-
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