Looking back at the triple-doubles before Sabrina Ionescu

30 Mar 1997: Ticha Penicheiro of the Old Dominion Monoarchs dribbles past Kyra Elzy of the Tennessee Volunteers at Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Volunteers won the game 68 - 59.
30 Mar 1997: Ticha Penicheiro of the Old Dominion Monoarchs dribbles past Kyra Elzy of the Tennessee Volunteers at Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Volunteers won the game 68 - 59. /

Over the past four years, Sabrina Ionescu has made her imprint on the Oregon Ducks, the women’s basketball world, and college basketball on the whole. Now on a first-name basis in the basketball community, it’s enough to just say the name “Sabrina,” but her official title is the “Triple-Double Queen,” now the all-time leader in triple-doubles across both women’s and men’s college basketball with 24 in her time in Eugene.

Sabrina plays in an era where the triple-double is generally more common, but she has also taken that to a whole new level. The NCAA record books track triple-doubles back to the 1985-1986 season, when assists became an official statistic. From that season until the end of the 2015-2016 season, there were 422 triple-doubles in NCAA Division I women’s basketball. From the start of Sabrina’s freshman season (2016-2017) to the end of the 2018-2019 season – that’s just three seasons – there were 102 total triple-doubles.

Sabrina was responsible for 18 of those triple-doubles in her first three seasons and has since added six more. She is undoubtedly going to leave a slew of records that will take another special player to break. Besides her career total of 24 and counting, she is also the only player with four or more triple-doubles in three or more seasons (she has done it every season).

All that said, there are a number of triple-double marks Sabrina does not own (yet), so let’s take a look at some other records she could still reach for and the players behind those numbers.

All references to NCAA records are for NCAA Division I women’s basketball as based on the NCAA record books entering the 2019-2020 season. All game stats for Sabrina Ionescu are courtesy of Her Hoop Stats as of February 15, 2020.

Consecutive triple-doubles: Danielle Carson, Youngstown State

Three times in her career Sabrina has had back-to-back triple-double games, including a pair earlier this season against UC-Riverside (16 points, 18 rebounds, and 12 assists) and Kansas State (21 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists). That matches Chastadie Barrs’ record of three such back-to-back games set just last year.

However, that’s still one game short of the ultimate record. To start the 1985-1986 season, Youngstown State’s Danielle Carson had three consecutive games with a triple-double:

  • November 29, 1985 vs Akron: 12 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists
  • November 30, 1985 vs Kent State: 20 points, 12 rebounds, and 16 assists
  • December 2, 1985 vs Cleveland State: 26 points, 15 rebounds, and 14 assists

Carson added three more triple-doubles later that same season, giving her six for the year and her career. That single-season mark stood as the record until just last year. Sabrina matched it in her sophomore year and then had eight last season to establish a new record.

Carson had a remarkable career at Youngstown State and is still top-5 in career triple-doubles.

Most points in a triple-double: Cornelia Gayden, Louisiana State

Sabrina had 29 points in a triple-double twice, once against Indiana last season and once against Drake in her sophomore season, but she has yet to cross that scoring mark in one of her triple-double games.

The record for points in a triple-double belongs to LSU’s Cornelia Gayden, who on January 2, 1995, had 43 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 assists in a game against TCU.

Gayden played for LSU under Sue Gunter from 1991 to 1995 where she is still fourth all-time in points scored (2,451), one of just five 2,000-point scorers in program history. She is also sixth in program history in rebounds (894).

It was the one rough stretch for the Tigers where they had just one winning season and missed the NCAA Tournament all four years, but Gayden was the team’s star. She had three 40-point games in her career, including a program-best 49 points against Jackson State, also in her senior year. As a senior, she led the NCAA with 3.9 made threes per game and until 2018 held the record with 12 made threes in that 49-point game.

Most assists in a triple-double: Veronica Pettry, Loyola Chicago

Sabrina has had 14 assists in a triple-double three different times in her career, but she has a ways to go to match the all-time record. On March 4, 1989, Loyola Chicago’s Veronica Pettry had 22 assists in a triple-double performance against Detroit, matching what was then the NCAA record for total assists in a game.

Beyond that, Pettry’s performance was also the NCAA’s first official quadruple-double: 12 points, 10 rebounds, 22 assists, and 11 steals. From 1986 to 1990, Pettry had 15 games with 10 or more assists, compiling a career that stands as top-three in assists (538) and steals (250) for the program. She was twice an All-Midwestern Collegiate Conference selection and still stands as one of just four NCAA Division I women’s basketball players to record a quadruple-double.

Most rebounds in a triple-double: Chinata Nesbit, Robert Morris

Earlier this season Sabrina had her career high in rebounds with 18 in a triple-double effort against UC Riverside, six off the NCAA record for rebounds in a triple-double.

That effort came from Robert Morris’ Chinata Nesbit, who on March 8, 2008, had 18 points, 24 rebounds, and 10 assists in a 77-62 win over St. Francis (NY) to advance her team to the NEC semifinals in her senior year. Even more, it was her second triple-double in four games.

Robert Morris went on to win the NEC Tournament with Nesbit as Tournament MVP that year and earn their second consecutive NCAA Tournament bid. Nesbit was a two-time All-NEC honoree and is still top-20 in scoring in Robert Morris history and top-15 in rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks.

Most blocks in a triple-double: Sandora Irvin, Texas Christian

Sabrina has yet to have a triple-double involving either blocks or steals, and they are much harder to come by in general.

On January 16, 2005, Irvin had 16 blocks in a 75-34 TCU win over UAB. Still today that is an NCAA record for blocks in a single-game, and Irvin added 20 points and 18 rebounds for the only 15-15-15 game in NCAA history.

Irvin played for the Horned Frogs from 2001 to 2005, and left the program as a four-time All-Conference USA selection and unanimous AP First Team All-American. She led TCU to four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, including three second round finishes. As of the end of the 2004-2005 season she was the NCAA’s all-time leader in blocked shots (480) but has since been passed by Michigan State’s Allyssa DeHaan (503), St. Mary’s Louella Tomlinson (663), and Baylor’s Brittney Griner (748).

Irvin was drafted third overall by the Phoenix Mercury in 2005 and played six seasons in the WNBA.

Most steals in a triple-double: Ticha Penicheiro, Old Dominion

On the steals side, it’s not too surprising to find that Ticha Penicheiro had the most steals in a triple-double game with 14 steals for Old Dominion in a NCAA first round win over St. Francis (PA) on March 13, 1998.

Penicheiro posted 22 points, 15 assists, and 14 steals, matching the NCAA single-game steals record. Old Dominion went on to advance to the regional semifinals, where they fell 74-72 to NC State.

In her time in Norfolk from 1994 to 1998, Penicheiro helped lead the Lady Monarchs to four NCAA Tournament appearances under Coach Wendy Larry, including a runner-up finish. Penicheiro was an All-American honoree three of her four years, a Naismith Trophy finalist twice, and she won the Wade Trophy in her senior year.

She is one of seven Old Dominion players to have her jersey retired, and for good reason. Penicheiro leads the program all-time with 591 career steals and is second only to Nancy Lieberman with 939 career assists.

Penicheiro was drafted second overall in the 1998 WNBA Draft by the Sacramento Monarchs, where she continued to be prolific at amassing assists and steals. She still holds the top-three single-game assist performances and the single-game steals record (10) in league history, and she is second in both career assists (2,600) and steals (764).

Championship-winning triple-double: Shalee Lehning, Kansas State

There have been 17 total triple-doubles in the NCAA Tournament, including one by Sabrina in each of the last two years, along with five in the WNIT and one in the WBI.

Only one of those came in a championship game, though, and that triple-double belongs to Kansas State’s Shalee Lehning. On March 31, 2006, Lehning guided the Wildcats to a 77-65 win over Marquette for the WNIT championship, and she put up 14 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists to get there.

Lehning had five triple-doubles in her career, including three in her senior season. She is still ranked top-25 in Kansas State history in scoring (1,189), top-5 in rebounds (914), first in assists (800), and top-5 in steals (235).

In 2009, Lehning was drafted 25th overall by the Atlanta Dream, where she played a key role in their ascension to the 2010 and 2011 WNBA Finals.

Honorable mention: Kalara McFadyen, Memphis

This last one is just too special to not include. It’s not exactly a goal a player would reach for, but on February 3, 2002, Kalara McFadyen had 10 rebounds, 12 assists, and 10 steals for Memphis. A triple-double without points is special enough — it’s the only one in NCAA history — but what is even more incredible is that not only did McFadyen not score, she had no attempts from the field or the free throw line.

Head coach Joye Lee-McNelis praised McFadyen’s all-around ability, acknowledging how special the performance was.

“I’d like to get her autograph before this is all over with,” she told reporters after the game.

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