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Women’s Paradise Jam is Best Tournament Slate in the Country

Sabrina Ionescu leads the top-ranked Oregon Ducks into the Paradise Jam.(Photo from pac12.com)
Sabrina Ionescu leads the top-ranked Oregon Ducks into the Paradise Jam.(Photo from pac12.com)

The women’s college basketball world will keep close tabs on this year’s Women’s Paradise Jam, as it may be the best preseason women’s basketball tournament in the country this year and possibly ever, with all eight teams boasting perfect records for a combined 37 wins before their trip to the Caribbean.

When ESPN ranked the top games being played over the holiday weekend, three of its top five are being played at the UVI Sports and Fitness Center beginning Thursday, Nov. 28.

Two players, Lauren Cox for No. 2 Baylor (4-0) and Sabrina Ionescu for No. 1 Oregon (5-0) were unanimous AP All-American Team picks this season.

“The road to the Final Four begins in Paradise,” Tournament Executive Director Nels Hawksion said, and this year’s field includes two teams that made it that far last year, including the defending national champion.

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Baylor beat Oregon last year, 72-67, in the semifinals last season before winning it all.

Four of the top eight teams in the recent AP Top 25 list released Monday will be in this year’s contest and it will be a homecoming for Aliyah Boston of No. 5 South Carolina (6-0).

Boston is originally from St. Thomas and was ranked the No. 3 overall player in the Class of 2019, according to ESPN. She has not disappointed, recording a triple-double in her first college game, with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocks. She hasn’t been held below double-digits in points in South Carolina’s first six games and won the SEC Freshman of the Week honor in the first week of the season.

South Carolina freshman Aliyah Boston (4) blocks a shot in the Gamecocks win over Maryland. (Photo by Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun)
South Carolina freshman Aliyah Boston, left,  blocks a shot in the Gamecocks’ win over Maryland. (Photo by Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun)

Boston is just part of South Carolina’s nation-leading recruiting class, as Zia Cooke was the No. 4 ranked recruit and Laeticia Amihere and Breanna Beal were ranked at 10 and 11, respectively, on the ESPN rankings.

The Gamecocks scoring offense is led by Cooke with 14.3 points per game. Mikiah Herbert Harrigian has put up 13 points per game and Boston has added 12.8 points per contest so far this season to round out their double-digit scorers.

South Carolina ranks 10th in scoring offense with 88.2 points per game and sixth in scoring defense, since they have given up only 46 points per game.

Boston is the nation’s fourth ranked shot blocker with four per game while South Carolina leads the country with 11.5 blocks per game.

South Carolina will be in the Reef Division along with Baylor, No. 17 Indiana and Washington State.

Baylor is ranked third in scoring offense and second in scoring defense and blocks per game.

Na’Lyssa Smith leads the Bears with 17.6 points and eight rebounds per game and Cox has been averaging a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. More scoring support is provided by Queen Egbo, who puts up 15.4 points per game, and Erin Degrate and Te’a Cooper, both scoring just under 13 per game so far this season. Baylor is second in the nation with 8.5 blocks per game.

Indiana (4-0) has the 11th highest scoring offense with 87.5 points per game with Grace Berger leading the way with 17.5 points per game. Mackenzie Holmes puts up 14.5 points per game, and Aleksa Gulbe and Ali Patberg each score 10 points per game for the Hoosiers.

Patberg is fifth in the country with 7.3 assists per game.

The eighth leading scorer in the country, Borislava Hristova, also known as “Bobi Buckets,” scores 23 points per game for Washington State (4-0). Chanelle Molina contributes 14.8 points Per game and Jovana Subasic has 10.8 points per game so far this season.

Oregon, which beat Team USA, 93-86, in an exhibition game before the season – will be a top contender in the Island Division, which features No. 8 Louisville (5-0), University of Texas–Arlington (4-0) and Oklahoma State (5-0).

Oregon is scoring 94.5 points, which makes them the fourth highest scoring offense in the country.

Lauren Cox (15) is a major player for second ranked Baylor. (Photo from Usatoday.com)
Lauren Cox, center, is a major player for second ranked Baylor. (Photo from Usatoday.com)

Ruthy Hebard is averaging 20.5 points and 13 rebounds, fourth best for rebounding in the country – and Ionescu is putting up 14.3 points to go along with 9.3 boards. Satau Sabally scored 23 points in her season debut in Oregon’s victory over No .18 Syracuse.

Ionescu is leading the country with 9.5 assists per game and her teammate Minyon Moore is third on that list with 7.5 assists per game. The team leads the nation in the category with 26.8 per game.

Louisville’s leading scorer is Dana Evans, with 18.6 points per game while Jazmine Jones is averaging 15 and Kylee Shook has been scoring 11.4 points and grabbing a team high 8.8 rebounds per game.

Oklahoma State (5-0) is allowing just 47.6, which is the ninth fewest points allowed in the country.

The Cowgirls’ offense is led by Vivian Gray, who is averaging 18.8 points per game, while Natasha Mack is averaging a double-double 14 points per game and 12 rebounds. Ja’mee Asberry is the third Oklahoma State player in double-digits with 10.4 points per game. On the defensive side, Gray has been stealing the ball 2.8 times per game and Mack has swatting away 3.2 shots per game.

UT-Arlington (4-0) is led by Maire Benson, who is averaging 18 points per game, while Claire Chastin has 11 and Misty Dossey puts up 10.5. The Mavericks’ Kaite Ferrell is 18th in the country with 6.3 assists per game. UT-Arlington beat Kansas State on Sunday night, 57-53, behind Terryn Milton’s career-high 18 points to secure the first victory against a Power 5 school since 2006.

Their team defense has been impressive this season as they have yet to allow 56 points and have forced at least 14 turnovers in their four games this season.

GAME TIMES
Thanksgiving
– UT-Arlington will get things underway against Louisville at 2 p.m. and Oklahoma State will take on Oregon at 4:15 p.m. in the Island Division.

– Reef Division action will start at 6:45 p.m. when Baylor will play Washington State followed by a Top 25 matchup between Indiana and South Carolina at 9 p.m.

Nov. 29
– Louisville will play Oklahoma State at 2 p.m. and UT-Arlington faces Oregon at 4:15 p.m. in the Island Division. Baylor takes on Indiana at 6:45 p.m. and South Carolina plays Washington State at 9 p.m.

Nov. 30
The final day of action will include two Top 10 matchups, one between Oregon and Louisville at 4:15 p.m. and the other a nightcap between two top five teams: South Carolina playing Baylor at 9 p.m.

The last day also includes Oklahoma State and UT-Arlington at 2 p.m. and Washington State and Indiana at 6:45 p.m.

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