Posted: Nov 20, 2018
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UTAH VALLEY'S CORTEZ NAMED WAC WOMEN"S BASKETBALL PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Utah Valley's Alexis Cortez has been named Western Athletic Conference Women's Basketball Player of the Week for Nov. 12 through Nov. 18.
Cortez, a junior forward from Tucson, Ariz. (Tucson HS), led the Wolverines to a 29-point victory over Ottawa (Ariz.) on Saturday. The forward scored a career-high 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting, including 3-for-3 from behind the arc. She also added four rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block. On the season, she is averaging 11.8 points per game and her 2.3 three-pointers per game rank second in the WAC.
Other nominees included: California Baptist's Britney Thomas averaged 17.5 ppg and 9.5 rpg in a pair of losses to Cal State Fullerton and Northern Arizona … Chicago State's Tyeshia Bowers averaged 19.0 ppg in losses against St. Francis (Brooklyn) and Morehead State … Grand Canyon's Venla Varis led the Lopes in a pair of road losses, averaging 16.0 ppg at East Carolina and UNC Wilmington … Kansas City's Taylor Larson scored a career-high 13 points in a loss at Kansas State on Sunday … NM State's Brooke Salas recorded her first double-double of the season, and 14th of her career, with 18 points and 11 rebounds in a win at UTEP … UT Rio Grande Valley's Idil Turk scored 19 points with 3 rebounds in the Vaqueros' road win at Canisius on Saturday.
It's a busy week around the WAC, with a brief break in the middle for a Thanksgiving feast. UT Rio Grande Valley continues its east coast swing with a game at Massachusetts on Tuesday evening while Kansas City continues its season-opening road trip with a jaunt to Oral Roberts, also on Tuesday. Chicago State hosts UAB, NM State hosts Abilene Christian, CSU Bakersfield hosts Whittier and Utah Valley hosts Arizona Christian in pre-Thanksgiving action. In holiday tournaments, Grand Canyon hosts Indiana State and LIU Brooklyn this weekend while California Baptist heads to San Diego State to take on the host Aztecs and visiting Brigham Young. Kansas City opens the home portion of the schedule on Friday against George Mason while CSU Bakersfield and Seattle U hit the road on Saturday, going to San José State and Portland State respectively. UTRGV rounds out the schedule, hosting St. Edwards (Texas) on Sunday.
BY THE NUMBERS
Through two weeks of basketball, Utah Valley is the top offensive team, leading the WAC in scoring offense (74.8), free throw percentage (.836), assists (18.8) and steals (12.3). NM State is tops in scoring defense (52.3), scoring margin (+16.0), rebounding defense (31.0), rebounding margin (+7.0) and defensive rebounds (29.3). Grand Canyon holds the top field goal percentage (.466) and three-point field goal percentage (.386). CSU Bakersfield has the best field goal defense (.319) as well as three-point defense (.164). California Baptist is the leader in rebounding offense (42.5) and Chicago State is the leader in blocked shots (6.5). UT Rio Grande Valely is tops in turnover margin (+6.75) and assist/turnover ratio (1.1). Kansas City has the most offensive rebounds per game (19.0).
Individually, Chicago State's Tyeshia Bowers is the early scorign leader at 23.0 points per game. CBU's Britney Thomas is the rebounding leader (11.8) and GCU's Laura Piera is the early assists leader (7.3). NMSU's Brooke Salas has the top field goal percentage (.619) and CSUB's Alexxus Gilbert has the top free throw percentage (1.000). CBU's Emma Meriggioli is the leader in steals (2.8) and CSU's Ines Mata Boix is the blocks leader (3.3). Behind the arc, NMSU's Kalei Atkinson and GCU's Piera are tied for the top three-point field goal percentage (.600) while GCU's Venla Varis is averaging a WAC-best 3.3 three-ponters per game. UTRGV's Amara Graham holds the top assist/turnover ratio (2.3) while CSU's Bowers is the leader in minutes per game (38.0).
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.
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.
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.