BTN's Shelley Till: Big Ten women's hoop draws national buzz
Big Ten women’s basketball drew a lot of attention across the country recently – and for good reason. There have been record breaking acts, buzzer beaters, and several “best in the NCAA” performers.
Here are some of the highlights that have the nation talking.
Minnesota’s Rachel Banham amazed everyone again (including Kobe Bryant) as she threw a dagger into the heart of the Iowa Hawkeyes with her game-winning, side fadeaway, 3-pointer. Banham is playing with extremely high confidence and is on a mission to close out the regular season with a bang. Her leadership and desire to take the game over, has led to the Gophers undefeated record in February.
She continues to rewrite the record books and enters the week only 79 points from tying the Big Ten career scoring record set of 2,919 points set by Penn State’s Kelly Mazzante in 2004. In lieu of Banham going off with another 60-point performance this week, which is highly possible, fans who want to witness history should buy their ticket for Minnesota’s final home game against Ohio State on Feb. 24.
If sniper accuracy excites you, then the Big Ten is the place to be. Currently three Big Ten players hold the top field-goal percentages in the nation: Maryland’s Brionna Jones shoots 66.9 percent (No. 1), Michigan’s Hallie Thome, 65.2 percent (No. 2), and Ohio State’s Alexa Hart shoots 64.6 percent (No. 3). All three players have been integral in helping their respective teams to some key wins.
They’re not just garbage putbacks either. All three players have great footwork, the ability to square up and shoot, or make a move off the bounce. Having a big in the paint who can score with such efficiency is a point guard’s dream, not to mention the space it creates for the shooting guards to let it fly from beyond the arc.
Land of Threes
Speaking of shooting guards, Maryland’s Shatori Walker-Kimbrough currently leads the nation with a 57.3 three-point field goal percentage. The next closest player is nearly 10 percentage points behind her. Walker-Kimbrough has scored double figures in every game this season, and is averaging 27 a game in February.
Her proficiency didn’t come easy as she has worked extremely hard, putting in extra time to master her envious craft. Her favorite drill is “Wizards 100,” which requires 10 3-pointers from six spots, and then another 40 on the move. She credits these game-like shots to her efficiency when the ball tips.
The Big Ten can also boast the nation’s most skilled pickpocket in Northwestern junior guard Ashley Deary, who averages an NCAA best 4.27 steals per game. Deary currently has 111 steals this season, just 13 shy of the Big Ten single-season steals record of 124 set by Wisconsin’s Keisha Anderson in 1995-96.
Deary has always had quickness, great hands, and a high basketball IQ. Like any good student-athlete, she learned to study her opponents better, too. Deary likes to read her assignment during the first quarter, focusing on her “hitch” and figure out how to exploit it. Then, during the remainder of the game, Deary locks in on the ball handler as she crosses the half-court line, patiently waiting for the move that will make her pay.
If excellence is your thing, then you must get out and watch these women work. You can also tune into the marquee games of the week on the Big Ten Network. Here’s the full schedule for BTN and BTN Plus on BTN2Go.
Find more women’s basketball highlights on YouTube, or via the YouTube playlist below.