Big Ten Women's Basketball Weekly Release - Feb. 25

Ohio State's Ameryst Alston recorded two consecutive 30-point games last week, becoming the first conference player to achieve that feat this season.

Ohio State's Ameryst Alston recorded two consecutive 30-point games last week, becoming the first conference player to achieve that feat this season.

Feb. 25, 2014

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Big Ten Medal of Honor 100th Anniversary Spotlight: Wisconsin’s Janet Huff
Janet Huff earned the Big Ten Medal of Honor in 1984, after walking on to the Badger team in 1980. The 5-8 point guard was the first Badger to be named to the All-Big Ten Team, earning second-team honors in 1983 and first-team recognition in 1984, the year she was named the team’s MVP. Huff set the then-Wisconsin single season record for scoring as a senior, putting up 515 points for an average of 19.1 points per game. The Milwaukee native finished her career as the Badger record holder in steals (294), steals per game (2.49) and assists (412). Huff scored 1,455 points in her career, which ranks 13th on the Wisconsin career record list. Huff was named to the dean’s list for five semesters and graduated with a degree in recreation and resource management.

The Race for the Championship: The race for the Big Ten Championship will come down to the final week of the regular season with three teams looking to win the title. Penn State enters the final week with a 12-3 record and atop the conference standings, while Michigan State and Nebraska are tied for second at 11-3. The Lady Lions can earn a share of the conference crown as early as Thursday, needing wins by Northwestern and Illinois over the Spartans and Huskers, respectively. With Thursday triumphs by Michigan State and/or Nebraska, Penn State could then secure at least a share of the conference title with a win over Michigan on Saturday. Meanwhile, with wins in each of its next two games, Michigan State and Nebraska would each earn a share of the Big Ten Championship.

Up in the RPI: Eight Big Ten programs enter the week ranked among the top 64 teams in the nation, according to the latest RPI report released by the NCAA on Monday. Two conference squads appear in the top 10, led by Purdue at No. 8 and Penn State at No. 10. Iowa climbed five spots from a week ago to No. 24, while Nebraska remained steady at No. 31. Minnesota checks in at No. 37 this week, while Michigan State moves up four places to No. 38. Ohio State is rated 55th and Indiana appears at No. 64 this week.

Where We Rank: Five Big Ten teams appeared in the latest top 25 rankings, released by the Associated Press (AP) on Monday. Penn State leads all conference squads and remains in the top 10, moving to No. 8 this week. Nebraska is up one spot to No. 16, with Purdue climbing two spots to No. 19. Michigan State is up two spots to No. 21, while Iowa rounds out the ranking at No. 25, the first time the Hawkeyes have appeared in the AP standings since the Dec. 31 edition of the poll. In the USA Today Coaches poll released on Tuesday, three Big Ten teams appeared among the top 20, including No. 12 Penn State, No. 13 Nebraska and No. 19 Purdue. In addition, Michigan State is among other squads also receiving votes.

To the Point: This season, the 12 Big Ten programs have combined to produce 187 70-point outings, including 80 efforts of 80 or more. As compared to the 2012-13 season, conference teams combined for 131 70-point outings, with 56 of those resulting in 80-point performances. Iowa leads all conference programs with 24 70-point games this season, Penn State has scored 70 or more points 20 times, Nebraska and Purdue have done so 19 times and Michigan State enters the week with 17 70-point games. Iowa has scored 80 or more points 11 times this year, while Indiana and Michigan State have each recorded 10 80-point games.

20-Game Winners: Four Big Ten teams will enter the week with at least 20 victories, while two others can also reach the landmark this week. Iowa carries 21 victories this season, marking the sixth time in the last seven years the Hawkeyes have won 20 or more games. Boasting 21 wins this season, Nebraska has reached the 20-win mark for the fourth time in the last five seasons. Penn State has won 21 contests this season, the fourth straight year the Lady Lions have surpassed 20 wins. Purdue enters the weekend with 20 triumph, the fourth consecutive season the Boilermakers have achieved the 20-win feat. In addition, Michigan State and Indiana can each end the regular season with at least 20 wins. Carrying 19 wins, the Spartans need one more victory to reach the 20-win mark for the 10th straight year, while the Hoosiers eye the 20-win mark for the first time since the 2008-09 campaign, needing two more victories to reach the landmark.

30-Point Performances: This season, conference standouts have combined to score 30 or more points in a game 21 times. Minnesota’s Rachel Banham leads all conference players with five 30-point games, followed by three each from Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper, Ohio State’s Ameryst Alston and Penn State’s Maggie Lucas. Last week, Alston recorded two 30-point games, scoring 31 against Nebraska and 30 against Northwestern, becoming the first conference player to record two consecutive 30-point outings this season. A complete list of 30-point performances can be found on Page 4 of this release.

Special Points: Two conference standouts are among a group of 22 players national who were named finalists for the Nancy Lieberman Award, given annually to the nation’s top point guard. Iowa’s Samantha Logic and Northwestern’s Ashley Deary remain in the running for the honor. The duo enters the week ranked among the national top 10 in assists per game with Logic third at 7.5 assists and Deary, who is one of two freshmen named to the list, ranks ninth at 6.6 assists per contest. The list will be narrowed to five in March and the winner will be announced at the Women’s Final Four in April.

Tracking Stat Champions: Several conference standouts are looking to finish the season as individual stat champions in conference games only. Minnesota’s Rachel Banham looks to become the first Gopher since Carol Ann Shudlick in 1993 to lead the Big Ten in scoring, carrying an average of 23.3 points per game. That would be the highest single-season average since Penn State’s Kelly Mazzante averaged 25.1 points per game in 2002. Michigan’s Cyesha Goree could become the first Wolverine to lead the conference in rebounding since Pollyanna Johns did so in 1998, currently averaging 10.8 rebounds per game. Currently averaging 8.1 assists per game, Iowa’s Samantha Logic is on pace to lead the Big Ten in the category for the second straight season. That mark would be the highest single-season average since Penn State’s Helen Darling averaged 8.5 assists per game in 1999. Teammate Bethany Doolittle is averaging 3.6 blocks per game, which is on pace to be the most in a single season since Michigan State’s Allyssa DeHaan averaged 4.3 in 2007, and would be the first Hawkeye to lead the conference in the category since Tangela Smith in 1998.

Showing Her Smarts: Michigan’s Nicole Elmblad was named a second-team Academic All-American on Thursday, becoming the second Wolverine in team history to garner Academic All-America honors. Elmblad is the only junior to appear among the first and second teams, and was a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and Academic All-Big Ten honoree last season.

Tournament Tickets on Sale: Both all-session and single-session tickets for the 2014 Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament are on sale now to the general public. Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster at www.ticketmaster.com or by calling (800) 745-3000, and through the Bankers Life Fieldhouse box office. The Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament, which begins March 6, returns to Indianapolis and Bankers Life Fieldhouse this season.

All CLASS: Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper and Penn State’s Maggie Lucas were named finalists for the 2014 Senior CLASS Award, making the Big Ten one of three conferences to have multiple names on the list. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition. Nationwide fan voting has begun to help determine this year’s winner. A fan vote, combined with votes for media and coaches will decide this year’s winner, which will be announced the Women’s Final Four.

Still in the Running: Three Big Ten women’s basketball standouts remain in the running for the Naismith Women’s College Player of the year award, chosen by the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s Board of Selectors. Minnesota’s Rachel Banham, Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper and Penn State’s Maggie Lucas represent the conference on the list of 30 student-athletes. In late March, the Naismith Trophy voting academy will narrow down the pack to four finalists and the winner will be selected during the Women’s Final Four.