Women's Basketball Player/Newcomer of the Week (Dec. 5)
Monday, December 5, 2011

Bradley sweeps this week's Missouri Valley Conference women's basketball awards, as Leah Kassing and Shronda Butts led the Braves to two road victories, over Butler and Central Michigan, which were both 2011 WNIT participants.  Kassing averaged a double-double (19.3 points and 10.7 rebounds), while collected season-highs of 15 points, five boards, five assists, two blocks and three assists in the Braves' win over Central Michigan.  For their outstanding efforts, Kassing and Butts have been named the Missouri Valley Conference Player and Newcomer of the Week, respectively. 
Leah Kassing, Sr., C, Bradley
Kassing averaged 19.3 points and 10.7 rebounds, while shooting 62.5 percent from the field in three games last week. She scored a career-high 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting and also had seven rebounds against Wisconsin-Milwaukee to open the week.  Kassing collected her second double-double of the year with 13 points and 11 boards in a 50-45 win at Butler, a 2011 WNIT participant.  She capped the week with 22 points and a career-high 14 rebounds in an 86-79 road win at Central Michigan, also a WNIT participant last season.  Kassing hit 10-of-15 shots from the field in a career-high 33 minutes at CMU as she helped Bradley to its fourth road victory of the year and sixth straight road win dating back to last season.

Shronda Butts, Fr., G, Bradley
Butts averaged 11.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals in three games last week, helping Bradley to a pair of road victories, which were both WNIT teams last season.  She started the week with a then season-best 13 points and also had three boards, two assists and a steal against Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  After a seven-point, two-rebound effort in a 50-45 win at Butler, Butts had season highs of 15 points, five boards, five assists, two blocks and three steals to help Bradley to an 86-79 win at Central Michigan.  She has helped the Braves to a 4-0 record in road games on the year following the win at Central Michigan.

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

Sarah Nelson (CU)- Nelson continued her hot-shooting, making 11-of-17 field goals on the week, while averaging 14 points per game.  She started the week with her second straight 20-point performance, scoring 21 points to lead all players in CU’s 66-50 win at Wyoming.  The sophomore forward also led the Jays with eight rebounds in the road win.  Her six-game double-digit scoring streak came to an end against No. 3-ranked Notre Dame, as she made 3-of-4 shots from the field and finished with seven points, three rebounds, two steals and a team-leading three assists against the Irish.  For the week she made 64.7 percent of her shots, averaging 14 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game.

Rachael Hackbarth (DU) - Hackbarth powered Drake to a 74-60 win in its lone contest last week. The senior scored 21 points on 9-of-17 shooting and pulled down five rebounds. Hackbarth also added four assists and two blocks in her 27 minutes on the floor. Her presence down low helped Drake outscore UND 26-16 in the paint.

Samantha Heck (UE) - Earning all-tournament honors in Evansville’s Aces Winter Classic, junior Samantha Heck averaged 11.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, and also totaled 10 assists across the two days, piloting Evansville to its first home win of the season. In the three-game week, Heck led UE averaging 11.7 points and 7.7 boards. Against Ball State, the Auxvasse, Mo. native scored a game-high 12 points, also adding six rebounds and three assists. Heck advanced the Aces to the championship game of their invitational with 11 points, a season-high nine boards, and a career-high eight assists in UE’s 63-56 win over Eastern Kentucky. Against Marshall, Heck had another stellar game, recording 12 points and eight rebounds. On the season, the 6’2 center averages a team-high 11.1 points per game.

Candace Sykes (ILS) - Sykes dominated the boards in Illinois State’s win against Arkansas State, 78-50, at the ASU Classic, as she recorded a career-high 20 rebounds in the game (Dec. 2) at Wells Fargo Arena. Sykes’ 20 boards put her in a fifth-place tie for rebounds in a single game. In the championships game against Arizona State (Dec. 3), Sykes led ISU with 13 points and five rebounds. Over the two-game tournament, Sykes averaged 13.5 rebounds, nine points and 3.5 steals, earning all-tournament team honors. She leads the Redbirds in rebounds (46) and steals (14) through seven games. 

Shannon Thomas (INS) - Thomas averaged 18.0 points, 13.0 points and 2.5 assists for the Sycamores this past week, as ISU tallied wins at home over UT Martin and on the road over UIC. ISU fed Thomas in the paint early and often against the Skyhawks, as the senior center posted season-highs of 22 points and 17 rebounds on a 10-for-18 effort from the field. Thomas also picked three blocks, a pair of assists and one steal in ISU’s home win. She fell one rebound short of another double-double at UIC, going for 14 points and nine rebounds in ISU’s first road victory of the season. The Sycamores used Thomas to secure the victory, as she scored 10 of her 14 points for the game in the second half.

Casey Garrison (MSU) - Garrison led all scorers with 18 points to go with three rebounds, four assists and two steals in MSU’s victory over UALR Tuesday. Garrison went 6-for-11 from the floor, 2-for-4 from long range and 4-for-4 from the charity stripe in just 28 minutes.

Katelin Oney (UNI) - Oney scored 35 points between the Panthers’ two games against Southeast Missouri State and Green Bay last week. Against SEMO on Dec. 1, she had 10 points, three rebounds, and two assists in UNI’s 62-42 victory. At No. 17 Green Bay on Dec. 4, Oney led the Panthers to a 13-0 lead to open the game and was 4-of-4 on three-pointers in the game’s first seven minutes. She finished with a career-high 25 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including 6-of-9 from beyond the arc.

Cartaesha Maclkin (SIU) - Macklin averaged a team-best 18.0 points to go along with 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game in two games for the Salukis last week. She scored 16 points with six rebounds and three steals in a three-point loss Tuesday at Northern Illinois before tying a season-high with 20 points Saturday in an overtime loss to SIU Edwardsville. The Mayo, Fla., native scored go-ahead baskets in the final minute of regulation in both games, although the Salukis didn’t pull out a win in either case. Macklin went 15-of-19 from the free throw line during the week for an average of 78.9 percent. She leads all MVC newcomers in scoring and rebounding with averages of 14.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.

Haleigh Lankster (WSU) - Lankster led the Shockers in scoring in both games this week, putting up a season-high 18 against Central Mihigan and 17 in a 63-43 victory over SMU.  The senior pumped in 8-of-16 shots while dishing out a game-high four assists on Wednesday against the Chippewas.  She then turned in her most efficient game of the year in Saturday’s rout of SMY, putting in 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting.  Lankster knocked down her only three-point attempt while collecting six steals plus two rebounds and an assist in only 25 minutes.  The Shockers built a 36-19 halftime lead over the Mustangs as Lankster connected on all six of her shots and went in to the break with 13 points.  This week’s games raised Lankster’s shooting percentage from .392 to .462 and her point production from 9.8 to 12.0. 

Taylor Johnson (CU) - Johnson became the first freshman in school history to drain at least four three-point field goals in consecutive games when she made 4-of-7 threes at Wyoming (to follow her 4-for-10 performance against NC State).  The rookie played a career-high 27 minutes at Wyoming, finishing with 12 points and three rebounds in the 66-50 win.  She followed with three points against No. 3-ranked Notre Dame.  For the week she averaged 7.5 points and made 5-of-10 three-pointers.

Katy Winge (UE) - Winge made a career-high eight points in Illinois State’s win against Arkansas State (Dec. 2), 78-50, at the ASU Classic and brought down a career-high in rebounds with five in 15 minutes of play. In the championship game against Arizona State (Dec. 3), Winge netted eight points, tying her career-high she set the day before. The freshman guard also had two rebounds against the Sun Devils in 20 minutes.

Brittni Donaldson (UNI) - Donaldson scored 10 points in UNI’s 62-42 win over Southeast Missouri State on Dec. 1. Donaldson has scored in double digits three times in her first seven career games.