Smith and Anigwe rank among top 10

Car­di­nal, Bears play­ers solid con­tenders for trio of tro­phies

San Francisco Chronicle - - COLLEGE BASKETBALL - By Tom FitzGer­ald Tom FitzGer­ald is a San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle staff writer. Email: tfitzger­[email protected] sfchron­i­ Twit­ter: @tomg fitzger­ald

Be­sides be­ing one of the key Pac-12 women’s bas­ket­ball games of the sea­son, Sun­day’s meet­ing be­tween No. 11 Stan­ford and No. 3 Ore­gon at Maples Pav­il­ion will show­case two of the very best play­ers in the coun­try.

Both Alanna Smith of the Car­di­nal and Sab­rina Ionescu of the Ducks hope to lead their teams to the na­tional ti­tle. But first things first. Even if Stan­ford wins Sun­day, it would still need help from some­body else to knock Ore­gon out of first place. These two teams could face each other again in the Pac-12 tour­na­ment in Las Ve­gas.

The 1 p.m. game could be Ionescu’s last chance to play in her home area; there’s spec­u­la­tion the for­mer Mi­ra­monte-Orinda star may leave school to join the WNBA as the prob­a­ble top pick in the draft.

It’s def­i­nitely the last col­lege sea­son for Smith, and the se­nior for­ward from Aus­tralia has said from the start that noth­ing short of the na­tional ti­tle will sat­isfy the Car­di­nal.

There are three main na­tional player-of-the-year awards: the Nai­smith Tro­phy, the Wade Tro­phy and the Wooden Award. The win­ners will prob­a­bly be among the fol­low­ing 10 play­ers, listed in al­pha­bet­i­cal or­der. (Sta­tis­tics are through Fri­day’s games.)

Kris­tine Anigwe, Cal, cen­ter/for­ward, 6-4, se­nior

Av­er­ag­ing 22.4 points and na­tion-lead­ing 15.6 re­bounds

Some­day her num­ber will be re­tired at Haas Pav­il­ion. She’s the school’s all-time lead­ing scorer and soon will be its top re­bounder and shot blocker, too. She has had a dou­ble-dou­ble in ev­ery game this sea­son. Cal’s 14-8 record (5-6 Pac-12) won’t help her chances for a top post­sea­son award, but she sure passes the eye­ball test de­spite rou­tinely get­ting dou­ble- and even triple-teamed.

Kalani Brown, Bay­lor, cen­ter, 6-7, se­nior

Av­er­ag­ing 15.8 points, 7.2 re­bounds

A two-time All-Amer­i­can and last year’s Big 12 Player of the Year, Brown is the big ticket on the No. 1 team in the coun­try. She strug­gled in a De­cem­ber loss to Stan­ford but had 22 points and 17 re­bounds in a 68-57 win over then-No. 1 UConn on Jan. 3. Brown’s dad, P.J., had a 15-year NBA ca­reer that ended with a ti­tle with the Bos­ton Celtics in 2008. Her mom, Dee, played at Louisiana Tech.

Napheesa Col­lier, UConn, for­ward, 6-2, se­nior

Av­er­ag­ing 14.4 points, 7.2 re­bounds She’s the fifth Husky to reach 2,000 points and 1,000 re­bounds in a ca­reer, the oth­ers be­ing Tina Charles, Re­becca Lobo, Maya Moore and Bre­anna Ste­wart. How con­sis­tently ex­cel­lent is she? “It’s like talk­ing about the sun came up,” head coach Geno Auriemma said. “There’s no more guar­an­tee than what you’re go­ing to get from Pheesa ev­ery day at prac­tice and ev­ery night.”

Asia Durr, Louisville, guard, 5-10, se­nior

Av­er­ag­ing 20.8 points

She was WNBA-ready two years ago and was a first-team All-Amer­i­can and ACC Player of the Year last sea­son, when she torched Ohio State for 47 points and Notre Dame for 36. She had a game-high 24 points when the Car­di­nals beat UConn 78-69 re­cently be­fore a home crowd of 17,023. Huskies coach Auriema said, “Take out Asia Durr, and we would have won by 30.”

Me­gan Gustafson, Iowa, for­ward, 6-3, se­nior

Av­er­ag­ing 26.6 points (tops in the na­tion) and 12.7 re­bounds

The Wis­con­sin na­tive is sec­ond in the na­tion in field goal per­cent­age (70.4). She has been Big Ten Player of the Week 10 times this sea­son. She had 41 points and 14 re­bounds in an 86-71 win over No. 21 Michi­gan State. In that game she hit 17 of 24 field-goal at­tempts and all seven of her free throws.

Sab­rina Ionescu, Ore­gon, guard, 5-11, ju­nior

Av­er­ag­ing 19.0 points, 7.3 re­bounds and 8.2 as­sists (leads na­tion)

If she’s not the best player in the coun­try, and she very well could be, she un­doubt­edly has the best court vi­sion. Her as­sist to­tal — in­clud­ing a school­record 669 for her ca­reer — is all the more amaz­ing con­sid­er­ing she’s not the point guard. The reign­ing Pac-12 Player of the Year is women’s bas­ket­ball’s all-time leader in triple­dou­bles with 16, hav­ing bro­ken the pre­vi­ous record of seven when she was a sopho­more.

Teaira McCowan, Mis­sis­sippi State, cen­ter, 6-7, se­nior

Av­er­ag­ing 16.9 points and 13.7 re­bounds

She led the Bull­dogs to the NCAA fi­nal in each of the pre­vi­ous two sea­sons and wants to get them over the fi­nal hump this year. She has had 18 dou­ble-dou­bles this sea­son, get­ting plenty of help along the way from for­ward An­riel Howard, a grad-trans­fer from Texas A&M. The No. 6 Bull­dogs (21-1, 9-0 SEC) are win­ning by an av­er­age of 33.8 points, in­clud­ing 24.1 in con­fer­ence games.

Arike Ogun­bowale, Notre Dame, guard, 5-8, se­nior

Av­er­ag­ing 20.7 points, 4.8 re­bounds and 3.9 as­sists

She scored 30 points, 26 of them in the sec­ond half, in the Irish’s 82-68 win over then-No. 2 Louisville. Don’t be mis­led by that score. It was a thriller un­til a 14-2 Irish run in the fi­nal 1:23. It’s go­ing to be hard for Ogun­bowale to match her hero­ics in last year’s Fi­nal Four: In the semis, her con­tested shot handed UConn its first loss of the sea­son. In the fi­nal she hit an even tougher buzzer-beater, a run­ning 3 from the cor­ner with a hand in her face, to beat Mis­sis­sippi State for the ti­tle.

Katie Lou Sa­muel­son, UConn, guard/for­ward, 6-3, se­nior

Av­er­ag­ing 18.9 and 6.9 re­bounds

The sis­ter of for­mer Stan­ford sharp­shoot­ers Bon­nie and Kar­lie is a two-time All-Amer­i­can who led the na­tion in 3-point shoot­ing last year (47.5 per­cent). She was in a se­v­engame shoot­ing slump un­til she poured in 31 points, in­clud­ing 27 in the first half, Wed­nes­day against East Carolina.

Alanna Smith, Stan­ford, for­ward, 6-4, se­nior

Av­er­ag­ing 20.7 points, 8 re­bounds

With ev­ery game, the first in­ter­na­tional re­cruit in Stan­ford his­tory is adding to her case as one of the school’s all-time greats. The Aus­tralian has 53 blocks, one fewer than other teams have to­taled against Stan­ford. Although her 3-point shoot­ing has fallen off lately, her 44.4 per­cent is still one of the best in the coun­try. Her ex­pe­ri­ence in the World Cup in Spain in Septem­ber helped make her a threat on both ends of the court.

John Hefti / As­so­ci­ated Press 2018

Cal’s Kris­tine Anigwe, left, has had a dou­ble-dou­ble ev­ery game. Ore­gon’s Sab­rina Ionescu, cen­ter, av­er­ages 8.2 as­sists, and Stan­ford’s Alanna Smith has 53 blocks; they face off on Sun­day.

Cody Glenn / Icon Sportswire

Marcio Jose Sanchez / As­so­ci­ated Press

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