Michelle Smith Feature: Pac-12 Women's Basketball sophomores shine
The sophomores are set to rule the Pac-12 now and into the future.
Four of the top six scorers in the conference are second-year stars, who are emerging as national talents, team leaders and impact players.
Here’s a look at the top eight sophomores in the Pac-12 based on their performances so far this season.
Sabrina Ionescu, Oregon. There’s no question that Ionescu is not just one of the best players in the Pac-12 at this point in her still-young career, but one of the best players in the country. Ionescu, the holder of the NCAA career-record for triple-doubles (8), currently sits atop the Pac-12 scoring chart, averaging 19.2 points a game, and she leads the conference in assists at 7.2 per game. On top of that, Ionescu – last year’s national freshman of the year - is the Ducks’ second-leading rebounder, pulling down 7.3 rebounds a game. Oregon’s 6-0 start in conference play has everything to do with the pace that Ionescu has set.
Ruthy Hebard, Oregon. Ionescu’s best friend and teammate, Hebard, is setting her own torrid pace in building an impressive collegiate career. Hebard is averaging 16.8 points and 8.2 rebounds a game. For the second year in a row, she is leading the conference in field-goal percentage at .685 from the floor. Hebard is athletic, active and oh, so efficient, and she isn’t even halfway through a career in which she’s already established herself as one of the top post players in the land.
Borislava Hristova, Washington State. Up in Pullman, they call her “Bobby Buckets.” Hristova is a redshirt sophomore, having missed most of last season with a knee injury after establishing herself as an impact player as a freshman. She was leading the Cougars in scoring at the time of her injury. Hristova, who is tied for the Pac-12 scoring lead at 19.2 points a game, looks like she has shaken off any rust from sitting out last year. Last week, Hristova put up a career-high 36 points on 15-of-21 shooting against Colorado, tying for the third-most points in a game in program history. The Bulgarian native has put up seven 20-point game this season.
Amber Melgoza, Washington. As the Huskies remodel their program under first-year head coach Jody Wynn, Melgoza has emerged as a leader on the floor. Over her last nine games, Melgoza is averaging 20.9 points per game and in conference play is averaging 19.8 point per game. Melgoza, the Santa Barbara native, is fitting right in with the Washington legacy of being a “go-to” scorer. She put up 31 points against Oklahoma in a non-conference matchup. She is also shooting an impressive 76 percent from the free-throw line.
Minyon Moore, USC. Moore is the floor leader for a USC team that had an outstanding non-conference season and has proven to be a tough matchup for every one of its Pac-12 opponents so far this season. Moore, who has started all 17 games at point guard for Mark Trakh’s team, leads the Women of Troy in minutes played to this point, is averaging 14.3 points a game on a balanced scoring roster and has already dished out 93 assists, ranking her among the Pac-12 leaders. Moore’s biggest night of the season so far came on December 1, when she put up a game-high 34 points against Loyola Marymount, including a 21-of-23 effort from the free-throw line, the most points scored in a game since 2014.
Mikayla Pivec, Oregon State. The Beavers’ guard has been thrown into the deep end this season, taking over point guard duties from Sydney Wiese, one of the greatest players in program history and an All-Americans. Pivec is playing the point for the first time since the seventh grade and the Lynwood, Washington native, is growing into the role. She has started all 17 games for the Beavers, averaging 12.2 points and 7.2 rebounds a game. Her shooting percentage of 49.3 percent ranks second-highest by a guard in the Pac-12 and has dished out 84 assists so far this season. Pivec’s athletic ability is never in doubt. In addition to basketball, Pivec is a javelin thrower on the OSU track and field team in the spring.
Jamie Ruden, Arizona State. Ruden brings perimeter punch to an Arizona State team that is known primarily for its suffocating defense. Ruden, coming off the bench, is averaging 10.3 points per game, ranking her second in a balanced ASU scoring attack. She is also the Pac-12 leader in 3-point percentage at 51.3 percent. Ruden’s health has been an issue so far. She played just 14 games as a freshman due to a foot injury and missed a pair of games this season with a back issue that she will likely be managing all season. In fact, Ruden missed a game and a half in the Sun Devils’ road trip to Oregon last weekend. But a healthy Ruden is a “game-changer,” says ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne. Ruden’s best game this season was a 19-point effort against Idaho in the non-conference.
Kat Tudor, Oregon State. The second OSU super-sophomore on this list, Tudor is the Beavers’ best long-range threat and one of the best 3-point shooters in the country. Tudor is tied for second in the Pac-12 in 3-pointers per game (3.1). Tudor went 6-for-8 from beyond the arc last Sunday against Arizona and has hit at least five 3-pointers in five games this season. Tudor has big shoes to fill as Wiese was the best 3-point shooter in league history. But Tudor is on pace to break Wiese’s sophomore record for 3-point shooting. With 53 threes so far this season, she’s hit more 3-pointers than 12 Division I teams.
Michelle Smith is a contributing writer for pac-12.com. She has covered pro and college sports for espnW, the San Francisco Chronicle and AOL Fanhouse. For previous Michelle Smith features on pac-12.com, visit the archives page.