Michelle Smith WBB Feature: Seven super seniors making the biggest impact
And the seniors shall lead them. In a conference full of teams featuring talented underclassmen, there is a contingent of veteran players, in their final collegiate seasons, who are setting the pace for their teams. It is no coincidence that the teams with the best records in the conference, and even in the non-conference, have a senior anchor on the floor.
These players are leaders, not only in the box scores, but on the floor. They are, in many cases, some of the most accomplished players in the history of their programs.
They have in common their sense of urgency and their experience. But they are all getting it done for their team in unique ways.
Let’s take a look at the seven super seniors who are making the biggest impact in the Pac-12 this season.
Kristine Anigwe, F, Cal. Anigwe, the nation’s leading rebounder at 14.4 boards per game, is closing in on the school’s all-time scoring record. Currently ranked No. 2, she needs 144 points to tie Colleen Galloway as the program’s all-time leading scorer. Her 15 double-doubles this season are most in Division I so far this season and her scoring and rebounding averages of 21.9 points per game and 14.4 rebounds per game are both career highs. She is the only player in Division I basketball (men’s or women’s) to put up a double-double in every game she has played this season. Anigwe’s leadership will be needed more than ever in this trying time for the Bears, who have lost five of six games since opening the season unbeaten at 9-0.
Maite Cazorla, G, Oregon. Cazorla, the Las Palmas, Spain native, is the ultimate glue-player for the 5th-ranked Ducks. She is averaging 10.1 points per game, putting up a 13-point effort Sunday in the big win over UCLA that included key back-to-back 3-pointers, and is averaging 4.9 assists per game with a 4.3 assist-to-turnover ratio that is best in the Pac-12. Cazorla will finish her career No. 2 on the career assists list at Oregon behind teammate Sabrina Ionescu, having completed a strong four-year run in which she was an impact contributor from Day One.
Megan Huff, F, Utah. The Utes, who are off to a 15-1 start and a 4-1 start in Pac-12 play, are led by the senior transfer from Hawai'i, who is averaging 19.4 points and 9.5 rebounds a game. She has scored in double figures in every game she’s played in this season and has put up at least 20 points in nine games, including this week’s road sweep of Washington and Washington State. On Sunday, against the Huskies, Huff put up 25 points and 12 rebounds for her 20th career double-double.
Kianna Ibis, F, Arizona State. The Sun Devils leader has been a hot hand of late, with two 20-point plus games in the last two weekends. Sunday against Cal, Ibis scored 26 points against Cal, including a career-high four 3-pointers. A weekend ago, Ibis put up 27 points in a win over Colorado. Considering that ASU is among the lowest-scoring teams in the Pac-12, Ibis’ offensive breakout couldn’t come at a better time for her team, which has won three of four games since losing the Pac-12 opener to rival Arizona and are headed into an important trip to Oregon to face the unbeaten Ducks and Beavers.
Kennedy Leonard, G, Colorado. Leonard missed her first career games when she did not play for the Buffaloes this past weekend, ending a run of 100 consecutive starts. She is second in the Pac-12 in assists per game at 7.2, averaging 14.7 points a game to lead her team and is also averaging 3.1 steals per game, best among the guards in the Pac-12. Leonard is also shooting 92.3 percent from the free-throw line during conference play. She is currently ranked second in program history in assists, and her career-assists average is currently the best in Colorado history. Her presence on the court is a huge factor for a young Colorado squad.
Katie McWilliams, G, Oregon State. McWilliams, who has started every game for the Beavers this season, is one of the Beavers’ most consistent outside threats on a team that is perhaps the best perimeter shooting team in the nation. The versatile guard from nearby Salem, Ore., who has played four positions at some point in her collegiate career, is averaging 9.0 point a game in a balanced offense, with 20 3-pointers on the season. She is also a key defender for a team that prides itself on lockdown D. A season-ending injury to Kat Tudor, the team’s leading 3-point shooter, will further elevate McWilliams role through the meat of the Pac-12 season and into the Beavers’ postseason run.
Alanna Smith, F, Stanford. The Cardinal senior forward, pushing her team to its best 15-game start since 2013-14 (22-1), is averaging a career-best 19.7 points a game for the sixth-ranked team in the nation, including 48.8 percent shooting from beyond the 3-point arc (ranking her fourth in the country). She has scored at least 20 points in three straight games (with 11 straight double-digit games) and has scored 30 points twice this season. Her 20-point performance Sunday against Arizona also included seven blocked shots, which was a career-high. She is currently the only player in the country shooting better than 54 percent from the floor and 47 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.
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.