When I was growing up, my dad would always tease me for thinking with my heart rather than my head when it came to sports. I was the kind of kid who would pick my favorite team to win it all in a bracket challenge even if they were a 12-seed. My dad, meanwhile, made his living as a scientist, and in science, numbers are truth.
“Stats don’t lie,” he would always say. Now, I still think they do at times, but I’ve found a middle ground when it comes to head and heart. And if nothing else, unpacking team and player stats can be an enlightening exercise.
So, for this week’s women’s college basketball notebook, let’s check out some of the most notable stat leaders across the country.
Jasmine Dickey, Delaware, 25.6
Since Elena Delle Donne graduated in 2013, the Blue Hens haven’t gotten much attention. Jasmine Dickey gives Delaware basketball fans a new reason to tune in. Through 10 games, she’s leading the country with a whopping 25.6 points per game.
That’s pretty crazy when you consider that, before the season started, her career-high in a game was 21. She beat that in the first game of the season, scoring 25 points on 7-for-16 shooting from the field and 10-for-12 from the free-throw line against Chestnut Hill. Then on Nov. 26, she set a new career-high that’s going to be hard to top, draining 48 points against Eastern Michigan. It’s been a stellar season for Dickey, who had her high school jersey retired at Catonsville High School on Saturday.
NaLyssa Smith, Baylor, 13.2
You may not have heard of Dickey, but I’m guessing NaLyssa Smith rings a bell. If anything, hers is a name you should get used to. Smith is projected to be the No. 1 or No. 2 pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft in April. Until then, she’s a dominant force for Baylor.
The 2021 All-American had a career-high 19 rebounds against Houston on Nov. 27 and hasn’t had a game with fewer than 10 since Baylor’s season-opener against Texas State, when she pulled down seven. Through 11 games, Smith has recorded an NCAA-leading 10 double-doubles and has had four contests with five or more offensive rebounds.
Tommi Olson, Wyoming, 4.33
Here’s another name that probably isn’t on many non-Wyoming fans’ radars, so let’s put Olson’s 4.33 assist-to-turnover ratio in perspective. No. 2 on the list is UConn’s Paige Bueckers, who is renowned for her passing and decision-making. So, statistically speaking, Olson is 0.22 better than Bueckers.
The Wyoming senior is very much a pass-first point guard — she only averages 2.5 points per game — but she’s started all eight games for the 4-4 Cowgirls this season. In half of those games, Olson hasn’t committed a single turnover. And here’s a fun fact that has nothing to do with stats but is something my heart, not my head, told me to include: Olson’s mom, Elsa Olson, was a four-year player on the Wyoming basketball team from 1981-84.
Veronica Burton, Northwestern, 72
There’s not a coach in the country who doesn’t stress the importance of free-throw shooting. Free throws are literally free points — it’s in the name — so Burton’s 72 makes are impressive.
Game on the line? @Veronicaab22 has you covered with the tough take.#GoCats x #LockedN pic.twitter.com/qc31ltv5zP— Northwestern Women’s Basketball (@nuwbball) December 15, 2021
Game on the line? @Veronicaab22 has you covered with the tough take.#GoCats x #LockedN pic.twitter.com/qc31ltv5zP
Even more impressive, though, is when you couple that number with her shooting percentage. The Northwestern senior is making 91.1 percent of her free throws, and so far this season, she’s given the Wildcats six extra points per game at the free-throw line. In a Dec. 2 win over Clemson, she had a season-high 15 attempts and made 14 of them. Northwestern won that game by 11 points.
Caitlin Clark, Iowa, 2
The fact that any player has more than one triple-double at this point in the season is a feat worthy of recognition. Clark’s first of the season — and second of her career — came in an 87-67 win over Southern on Nov. 17, when the Iowa sophomore had 16 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds. She picked up the second against Big Ten opponent Michigan State on Dec. 5, finishing with 24 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds in an 88-61 victory. The performance was especially important for the Hawkeyes, who were coming off of a 79-64 loss to Duke on Dec. 2, their first of the season. Clark’s stat-stuffing night helped them get back on track to open conference play.
Michigan beats Baylor
This doesn’t exactly qualify as a stat, but it does include a number, so we are going to let it slide because there is no way I could write this notebook and not talk about Michigan. The No. 13 Wolverines upset No. 5 Baylor 74-68 in overtime on Sunday, avenging their Sweet 16 defeat to the Bears in last season’s NCAA Tournament.
Here is where the stats come in: Michigan had never defeated a top-five opponent in the history of the program. The Wolverines were 0-33 all-time, a stat that now reads 1-33. They did it with Naz Hillmon on the bench with five fouls for the overtime period, after the senior forward had 15 points and 10 rebounds during regulation. Senior guard Leigha Brown led Michigan with 25 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Eden Laase is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports. She previously ran her own high school sports website in Michigan after covering college hockey and interning at Sports Illustrated. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.