Megan Walker had the best seven-day stretch of her young career with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team and she was rewarded for it on Monday.
Walker was named the American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Week for the first time. In league wins over Memphis and Tulane she averaged 11.5 points and 3.5 rebounds.
Her week-long surge actually began on Jan. 21 when she had a season-high 22 points to go with six rebounds and five assists over 32 minutes in a 113-57 win at Temple. She then had 10 points and six rebounds in the 93-36 victory at Memphis last Wednesday. Then on Saturday against Tulane at Gampel Pavilion, she had 13 points and two assists in a 98-45 triumph.
"This is the time of the year that you kind of see that jump from some players that have been struggling throughout the beginning of the year," UConn All-American Katie Lou Samuelson said. "They are starting to figure out fully what they want. I think for Megan, she finally figured out that if she wasn't doing certain things she was going to end up on the bench, and she doesn't want to do that.
"She can help us, and once she figured that out she started to play more comfortable. I think everyone can see how well she handles the ball and the shots she makes are pretty tough shots. We all know she is a really talented player and just figuring out how she fits into our offense and our team was the biggest thing."
In 17 games this season, the Chesterfield, Virginia native is averaging 7.3 points and 3.5 rebounds in 17.1 minutes.
South Florida's Maria Jespersen was chosen the AAC Player of the Week. The senior forward had 24 points on 8-for-11 shooting from the floor in a 76-60 win over Temple at the Sun Dome.
UConn is in command of the league race with a 9-0 record as it seeks a fifth consecutive regular season championship. USF and Central Florida are tied for second at 6-2, with Cincinnati, Houston, and Wichita State sharing fourth at 5-3. East Carolina and Tulane are tied for seventh at 3-5, with Memphis and Tulsa sharing ninth at 2-6. Temple (1-6) and SMU (1-7) round out the standings for the 12-team conference.
NURSE IN LIEBERMAN TOP 10
UConn senior Kia Nurse is on a list of 10 candidates for the Nancy Lieberman Award that honors the nation's top point guard. The announcement was made Monday by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women's Basketball Coaches Association.
Nurse leads the Huskies (20-0 overall, 9-0 AAC) in minutes played at 32.3 and is averaging career highs of 15.1 points and 3.5 rebounds. The Hamilton, Ontario, Canada native shooting percentages from the floor (57.1) and 3-point range (nation's best 50.5) are career highs as well. She's also averaging 2.9 assists per game with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.3.
The other candidates are AJ Alix (Florida State), Lexie Brown (Duke), Jordin Canada (UCLA), Katelynn Flaherty (Michigan), Sabrina Ionescu (Oregon), Jessica Kovatch (St. Francis, Pennsylvania), Tiana Mangakahia (Syracuse), Brooke McCarty (Texas), and Kelsey Mitchell (Ohio State). Players can play their way onto and off of the list at any point of the season.
UConn has had four guards win the honor eight times since it was first awarded in 2000: Sue Bird (2000-02), Diana Taurasi (2003-04), Renee Montgomery (2009), and Moriah Jefferson (2015-16).
The winner of the 2018 Nancy Lieberman Point Guard Award will be announced during ESPN2's telecast of the NCAA Final Four semifinals on March 30. The Hall of Fame and WBCA will also announce lists of 10 candidates for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Shooting Guard Award, the Cheryl Miller Small Forward Award, the Katrina McClain Power Forward Award, and the Lisa Leslie Center Award this week.
UConn kept its spot atop the Associated Press poll released Monday. The Huskies (20-0) received all 32 first-place votes for the 13th consecutive week.
Mississippi State (22-0), the only other unbeaten team left, remained at No. 2 followed by Baylor (19-1), Louisville (22-1), and Notre Dame (20-2). Oregon (20-3) moved up one spot to sixth while South Carolina (18-3) rose two places to seventh. Texas (16-4) fell two spots to eighth after a loss to Baylor in Waco, UCLA (17-4) gained four spots to take ninth, and Florida State (18-3) dropped two spots following its loss to Notre Dame in Tallahassee.
Stanford re-entered the top 25 at No. 24 as Arizona State dropped out. USF is the only other AAC team in the poll as the Bulls' 14 points put them in a tie for fifth in the also receiving votes category. UConn takes on reigning national champion and No. 7 South Carolina at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia on Thursday. The other non-league game left on the Huskies' regular season schedule is set for Feb. 12 against No. 4 Louisville at Gampel Pavilion.