Women's Basketball Player/Newcomer of the Week (Nov. 14)
Monday, November 14, 2011

The opening weekend in MVC women's basketball was filled with outstanding individual efforts from veterans and newcomers alike.  Two nominees turned in double-doubles, one topped the 30-point mark and another two cleared better than 10 rebounds.  Creighton’s Sarah Nelson helped the Bluejays to a pair of road victories to open the season, leading the team in scoring, field goals, field goal percentage, rebounds, blocked shots and steals through her first two games, en route to the league's first State Farm Player of the Week honoree in 2011-12.  Illinois State’s Maddie Oliver registered 14 points, on seven-of-eight shooting, and added five rebounds and two blocks in leading the Redbirds to a 63-52 season-opening victory at Ball State, to capture the conference's initial Newcomer of the Week honor.

Much like last season, again in 2011-12 the Missouri Valley Conference will release its players of the week on Mondays, with the full women's basketball notebook available on Tuesdays, beginning tomorrow (Nov. 15).

Sarah Nelson, So., F, Creighton
Sophomore Sarah Nelson helped the Bluejays to a pair of road victories to open the season, leading the team in scoring, field goals, field goal percentage, rebounds, blocked shots and steals through her first two games.  She opened the season by tying her career-high with 17 points, making 7-of-8 shots from the field in CU’s 72-54 win at North Dakota.  Against North Dakota State she turned in her second career double-double, finishing with 12 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.  She also led the team with four assists against NDSU and shot 5-of-8 from the floor.  For the week she averaged 14.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.0 blocks per game, while shooting an impressive 75 percent from the field by making 12-of-16 shots.

Maddie Oliver, Fr., F, Illinois State
Maddie Oliver netted 14 points and was the team’s second-leading scorer in her collegiate debut in the season-opening victory against Ball State, 63-52, Friday at Worthen Arena. Oliver also grabbed five rebounds in the game and proved to be too much for Ball State to handle in the paint. The Roland, Iowa, native was nearly perfect from the field, making seven-of eight shots, and swatted away two BSU shots.

Noteworthy - In addition to the league's player and newcomer of the week selections, several conference players had notable performances, and they include: 

Leah Kassing (BU) - Kassing had 12 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and a steal in 24 minutes of play to help Bradley to a season-opening 59-49 victory against Northern Colorado.  With Kassing limited to seven minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, Bradley held an 18-15 lead at the break.  She played 17 minutes in the second half to help the Braves outscore the Bears 41-34 in the second half and cruise to the 59-49 win. 

Samantha Heck (UE) - Heck led Evansville with a career-high 18 points and six rebounds in UE’s 76-61 loss to Murray State. Heck scored 16 of her points and tallied all six boards in the second half. After recording a perfect shooting percentage and 21 points in UE’s exhibition win over Oakland City on Oct. 29, the Auxvasse, Mo. native shot again with consistency, going 7-for-10 from the floor, 2-for-3 from three-point range, and 2-2 from the line. Heck also tallied two assists and a block in 19 minutes of play.

Jamie Russell (ILS) - In her first game as a Redbird, junior transfer Jamie Russell led the Illinois State women’s basketball team to a 63-52 victory over Ball State Friday at Worthen Arena. The Rock Falls, Ill., native led all scorers with a career-high 19 points and recorded four steals in ISU’s season-opening win.  Russell was perfect (2-for-2) from the behind the arc and was 5-of-6 at the free throw line. She came alive in the second half with 11 points and three steals, including back-to-back baskets that gave the Redbirds the momentum late in the game. Russell sat out the 2010-11 season due to NCAA transfer rules.

Anna Munn (INS) - Munn has started both games the Sycamores have played, so far this season, giving her three career starts in her young career. On Friday against Detroit, she scored eight points, with two rebounds and two assists in the Sycamores 64-62 win. Munn then led the team in scoring during Sunday’s loss to Notre Dame. In that contest she had 13 points, three rebounds, and two steals for ISU.

Casey Garrison (MSU) - Garrison posted averages of 14 points and 9.5 rebounds against a pair of 2011 NCAA Tournament clubs last week. Sunday against No. 9 Louisville, the senior pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds to go with 15 points, four assists and two steals in the 73-64 loss. Garrison grabbed the second-highest rebound total of her career despite going up against seven players in the Louisville rotation that stood above her 6-foot frame. Nine of her rebounds against the Cardinals came in the second half.  Friday, Garrison tallied 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting, five boards and a team-high four assists at Louisiana Tech as the Lady Bears grabbed a 78-65 victory in what is statistically the fourth-toughest road venue in the nation for La. Tech’s opponents. Prior to Garrison and the Lady Bears winning in Ruston, Louisiana Tech had posted a 403-40 record in their home venue since 1982 and had won 91.4 percent of their home games all time, dating to 1974.

Mercedees Morgan (UNI) - Morgan shot 5-of-7 from the floor, including 4-of-6 from three-point range, to lead UNI with a career-high 19 points in UNI’s 61-50 win over Colorado State in the season opener. Morgan also finished with five rebounds, two assists and a steal.

Teri Oliver (SIU) - Oliver scored a career-high 32 points and pulled down five rebounds in the Salukis season opener at Austin Peay. The effort tied the 10th-highest single game scoring total in SIU history and marked the first time an SIU player has scored in the 30s since Christine Presswood tallied 30 Jan. 14, 2010 against Drake. Oliver’s previous career high was 26 points.

Jessica Diamond (WSU) - Diamond came off the bench to score a game-high 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting in a 77-49 season-opening rout of Northwestern (La.) State.  The junior also led the team with four steals and dished out five assists.  Diamond connected on her only three-point attempt and hit both free throw tries.  Her efficient night from the field helped WSU shoot 76.2% in the second half and 57.1% overall.   

Catie O’Leary (BU) - O'Leary scored a game-high 15 points and pulled down a team-best nine rebounds in her first game in a Bradley uniform, helping the Braves to a 59-49 season-opening victory against Northern Colorado.  Scoreless in the first half, O’Leary collected 15 points, six rebounds and two assists after the intermission in the second half to help power BU to the 10-point victory.  She scored 10 of her game-high 15 points in the final 7:40 of the contest to help the Braves pull away down the stretch.  O’Leary was a perfect 10-for-10 from the free throw line to become the ninth player in program history with 10 or more made free throws without a miss. 

Alexis Akin-Otiko (CU) - Akin-Otiko made her presence known during her first weekend of collegiate competition, averaging 11.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.  In her debut at North Dakota, she scored seven points, grabbed a team-high five rebounds, added a steal and made 3-of-3 free throws in just 13 minutes of action.  Against North Dakota State the rookie forward scored 16 points in 16 minutes, making 7-of-9 shots from the field.  Along with her game-high point total, she also added six rebounds and stayed perfect at the free-throw line with two more makes.  On the season she is 9-of-14 (.643) from the field and 5-for-5 at the free-throw line and she has scored a total of 23 points in 29 minutes of action.

Natasha Zurek (INS) - Zurek made her collegiate debut on Friday against Detroit, scoring two points off the bench and going 1-2 from the floor for the game. Zurek then got her first collegiate start on Sunday at No. 2 Notre Dame. She finished the game with three points, four rebounds and four assists for the Sycamores.

Ariel Haynes (SIU) - Haynes tallied 10 points, six rebounds, two blocks and a steal in her first official game as a Saluki at Austin Peay. She was SIU’s second-leading scorer and tied with two teammates to lead the team in rebounding.