It was a wild and historic opening day in women’s college basketball with a monumental upset and stellar debuts.
If Monday was any indication of the season ahead, there’s going to be a lot of excitement leading up to the crowning of a national champion in Cleveland in April.
Seven months after LSU won the national championship, the Tigers became the first No. 1 team to lose their season opener in 28 years when they were stunned by No. 20 Colorado 92-78. UConn was the last team to do it according to ESPN when the Huskies were No. 1 to start the 1995-96 season and fell to Louisiana Tech. They were also the defending NCAA champions that year as well.
LSU coach Kim Mulkey knows her team has a lot of work to do.
“This is not going to devastate us,” she said. “I knew what we faced, but what I didn’t know about my team were all those (intangible) things. … Those things are fixable, but I don’t know how long it’s going to take to fix it. So they probably will have a good practice come Wednesday.”
Unlike the Tigers, national runner-up Iowa cruised to an easy win in its opener behind Caitlin Clark. She had 28 points and 10 assists in the third-ranked Hawkeyes 102-46 win over Fairleigh Dickinson. The reigning AP Player of the Year also had seven rebounds and didn’t commit a turnover.
A bunch of freshmen had stellar debuts.
Juju Watkins scored 32 points to help No. 21 Southern Cal shock seventh-ranked Ohio State. Watkins effort was the most by a freshman in her first game at the school topping Lisa Leslie’s 30 points in 1990 against No. 7 Texas. That game was the last time that USC beat a ranked team in its season opener.
“I’m lost for words right now. I’m still kind of processing everything,” Watkins said. “Whenever we get the chance to compete against a top 10 team, any team really, we’re ready, we prep the right way, we do what we need to do, and we get out on the court and we show the world what we can do.”
Watkins wasn’t the only freshmen who played great in her the opener.
South Carolina first-year Milaysia Fulwiley had a viral moment with an incredible transition layup where she put the ball behind her back and kept it, finishing with a flip shot in the Gamecocks’ 100-71 rout of Notre Dame in the first women’s college basketball game ever played in Paris. That move drew the attention of Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, who was talking about the move on social media.
“That move made everybody notice,” said Fulwiley, who also had six assists and six steals. “I hope they keep watching.”
Not to be outdone, Irish freshman Hannah Hildago scored 31 points in the game. No freshman has had a debut like that for Notre Dame dating back to at least 1999 according to the school.
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AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball