All Scores

NCAA basketball: USC’s JuJu Watkins and three more freshman phenoms

USC’s JuJu Watkins is averaging 26.8 points through six games, which ranks second in Divison I behind Iowa’s Caitlin Clark. (Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The NCAA basketball season has started off with a bang, with a number of freshmen already making names for themselves.

MiLaysia Fulwiley caught the attention of NBA great Magic Johnson in her very first game for South Carolina. And if Fulwiley and her fellows continue on their trajectories, then freshman of the year could be this season’s most competitive award — and a few freshmen could even play their way into the national player of the year conversation.

Just Women’s Sports takes a look at four freshman phenoms who have starred for their teams in the first month of the season.

JuJu Watkins, USC

Watkins has been vocal about having both freshman of the year and national player of the year aspirations – and so far, she’s off to a great start. On Monday, she snagged her third-straight Pac-12 Freshman of the Week selection, and she has helped No. 6 USC to its best AP poll ranking in 29 years.

Her first collegiate game set the tone. Her 32 points stands as the most ever by a USC freshman in their debut, beating out Lisa Leslie’s 30 points. And those 32 points came against a ranked opponent in Notre Dame. Just five games later, she broke Leslie’s record for the most 30-point games scored by a USC freshman. And what’s more? Her 26.8 points per game rank second in Division I behind only Iowa senior Caitlin Clark.

When USC trailed by six points to Penn State on Nov. 22, Watkins scored seven in a row to lead the still-undefeated Trojans to victory.

“JuJu is so phenomenal, to see her adapt to the college game and adapt as quickly is so impressive,” USC head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said of Watkins. And after her debut, Gottlieb said: “She’s ridiculous. Get used to it.”

img
(Jeff Blake/USA TODAY Sports)

MiLaysia Fulwiley, South Carolina

Fulwiley turned heads with her season-opening performance against Notre Dame in Paris. And since then, she’s been a walking highlight reel for South Carolina, helping the team reach the No. 1 spot in the rankings.

The freshman guard is averaging the second-most points (15.0) for the Gamecocks behind only senior center Kamilla Cardoso (16.8). She’s also averaging 4.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.0 steals per game. The Gamecocks (5-0) had a lot of question marks after the departure of big names such as Aliyah Boston and Zia Cooke, but in Fulwiley, they’ve found an answer.

And what is perhaps scariest for South Carolina’s opponents is that Fulwiley still has a lot to learn when it comes to choosing her spots for her dazzling plays.

“She’s looking for a really great moment for her, a crowd-pleasing play. She has an appetite for it, that she loses sight of the in-between the great plays. And that’s where the game is being played,” head coach Dawn Staley said. “We gotta continue to give her more experiences in game-like situations. … But she’s learning.

“Not taking anything away from her. I want her to be great, I want her to be generational, I want her to be able to play a lot of different ways.”

img
(Matt Cashore/USA TODAY Sports)

Hannah Hidalgo, Notre Dame

A three-time ACC Rookie of the Week, Hidalgo is off to a hot start for the Irish, averaging 25.0 points (good for third in Division I), 5.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists and a 56.6% shooting through her first six games. She leads the ACC in both points and steals (6.3) per game.

Hidalgo set a Notre Dame record with 31 points in her first game. And earlier this month, she was named ACC Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week – just the second Notre Dame player to ever sweep such awards.

On top of that, she has 38 steals through six games. Her season high sits at 12 – which tied the Notre Dame record for a single game. She had 18 steals in a two-game span, which is the second-most by an ACC player in the last 25 seasons. She leads all Division I players in steals per game.

She also hasn’t posted below 20 points yet this season, and her six straight games with at least 20 points matches Beth Morgan and Arike Ogunbowale as the only players in Irish history to do so.

“I knew recruiting her what she was capable of providing for us,” head coach Niele Ivey said of Hidalgo. “I needed leadership. I needed scoring. And somebody that could just handle the ball … just the experience that she brings.

“And then we obviously fell in love with her. She has an incredible personality. So when you have that match with somebody with high character, somebody that plays with the unselfishness that she plays with, it fits into our system perfectly.”

img
(Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports)

Mikaylah Williams, LSU

Williams is another freshman who is making history. Against Kent State in mid-November, she scored 42 points, going 15-of-20 from the field while adding seven rebounds and three steals. Those 42 points set an LSU freshman record for points, and also stand as the most points in a single game for any LSU women’s basketball player in the last 25 seasons.

“She’s a special talent,” head coach Kim Mulkey said. “It was one of those moments where the rim feels as big as the ocean. I want to be that coach that pushes her beyond the limits. I think you’re just seeing her scratch the surface.”

She’s averaging 17.5 points per game, and her scoring touch has helped LSU rise to the sky-high expectations they faced ahead of the season – even amid some off-court turmoil.

For Williams to stand out among a top-ranked recruiting class at LSU is no small feat – especially considering the star transfers that the Tigers also brought in during the offseason, with both Hailey Van Lith and Aneesah Morrow making their mark.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

Start your morning off right with Just Women’s Sports’ free, 5x-a-week newsletter.