Women's Basketball To Host ASU Holiday Classic Saturday and Sunday

Nov. 29, 2001

TEMPE, Ariz. -

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Coming off winning the Paradise Jam last week in St. Thomas, the Arizona State Sun Devils return home to play host to the 22nd annual ASU Holiday Classic this weekend at Wells Fargo Arena. The host Sun Devils will be looking to reclaim the title in their own event after falling to UCSB in the championship game last year. ASU, now 4-2 on the year and on a two-game winning streak, will take on Fordham (1-3) in the first game of the tournament at 5 p.m. on Saturday, while Northwestern State (1-1) will face Rutgers (1-1 with a game at Pacific on Thursday) in the nightcap at 7 p.m. On Sunday, the consolation game will tip off at 1 p.m. and the championship game starts at 3 p.m.

ASU Tournament HistoryThe Sun Devils have compiled a 31-12 record in their own tournament, reaching the championship game in 20 of 21 tournaments. Last year, ASU opened the ASU Holiday Classic with a 73-56 victory over La Salle but fell to UCSB 76-66 in the championship game, snapping a streak of two straight titles in its own tournaments. ASU has captured the title in its own tournament 10 times, most recently in 1999. Last year, UCSB senior guard Rachelle Rogers was named tournament MVP, while a Sun Devil has earned the tournament's highest honor 12 times (most recently Theresa Jantzen in 1999). Last year, Melody Johnson and Amanda Levens each earned ASU Holiday Classic all-tournament honors.

In the PollsAfter losing two straight games, Arizona State dropped out of the polls this week after being ranked 21st and 25th in the Nov. 19 Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN Coaches polls, respectively. The team is still receiving votes in each poll (34th in AP, 37th USA Today), while Rutgers is also receiving votes in both polls and is ranked as high as 29th in the coaches' rankings.

The highest ASU was ranked last year was 22nd on Feb. 26, while the No. 22 ranking is the highest since the Sun Devils were ranked 16th in the preseason AP poll in 1983-84. ASU was 22nd in the preseason AP poll, marking the first time in 18 years that the Sun Devils were ranked in the preseason, while the team had shown up in several of the other preseason polls, ranking as high as 17th.

Last Time OutSenior center Melody Johnson turned in her first double-double of the season to lead the Sun Devils to a 68-57 victory over Richmond and the 2001 Paradise Jam Championship Monday morning in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Johnson finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds to record the sixth double-double of her Arizona State career and earn Paradise Jam Tournament MVP honors. Senior guard Amanda Levens, who averaged 15 points and four assists in the three-game event, was also named to the all-tournament team.

The Sun Devils fell behind early in the game, trailing the Spiders by as many 12 points when Richmond took a 19-7 lead with 11:48 to play in the first half. ASU, however, went on an 11-0 run to cut the lead to one. ASU took over for good with an 8-0 run that put the team up 30-24 with 4:40 to play and was capped off by a pair of fast break layups by senior Rainy Crisp.

ASU led 35-28 at halftime and went up by as many as 14 points in the second half en route to the victory. The Sun Devils tied with Kansas State with a 2-1 record in the Paradise Jam but held the tiebreaker with the Wildcats after downing them 76-58 on Sunday evening.

For the Sun Devils, Johnson led the team in scoring and rebounding, while freshmen Kylan Loney and Lauren Stagg each turned in career highs with nine and seven points, respectively. Levens and Loney led the team with a season-high six assists each. Three Spiders scored in double figures led by Krystn Gull with 12.

About FordhamFordham brings a 1-3 record to Tempe, mostly recently downing St. John's and falling to San Diego in the St. John's Holiday Tournament last weekend. Coached by Jim Lewis, the Rams returns three starters and eight letterwinners from last year's 5-23 team. A pair of Rams are averaging in double figures in scoring, led by junior forward Mobolaji Akiode who has scored 11.5 points per game this year. Akiode is also the team's leading rebounder at 6.3 boards per contest.

In the SeriesSaturday's game will mark the first meeting between Arizona State and Fordham, while the Sun Devils hold a 6-0 advantage vs. teams from the Atlantic 10 Conference, including last week's 68-57 victory over Richmond in their final game at the Paradise Jam.

Arizona State will play either Northwestern State or Rutgers in the second round of the ASU Holiday Classic. The Sun Devils have never faced Northwestern State but hold a 6-1 all-time record against teams from the Southland Conference. The series with Rutgers is tied at 1-1 with the then No. 22 Scarlet Knights downing the Sun Devils 67-48 in the championship game of their tournament in Piscataway, N.J., on Nov. 29, 1998. ASU's win in the series came in 1984-85 with a 76-75 road victory over then 14th-ranked Rutgers on Dec. 1, while ASU is 5-2 all time vs. teams from the Big East Conference.

A Look Ahead at Northwestern State and RutgersNorthwestern State is 1-1 on the season, falling to Virginia Tech in its season opener but rebounding with a victory over 59-58 victory over Tennessee-Martin on Nov. 25. The Demons and head coach James Smith return nine letterwinners and two starters from last year's 23-7 squad. Junior forward Angela Davidson is the team's leading scorer at 17.5 points per game, while Davidson and sophomore forward Katrina Swanigan pace the Demons in rebounding with 7.0 boards per game.

Rutgers visits Tempe on a three-game western swing that begins with a game at Pacific on Nov. 29. The Scarlet Knights are also 1-1 on the season (prior to their game at Pacific), falling at St. Joseph's in their season opener but rebounding with a 53-48 victory over Virginia on Nov. 24. Junior guard Mauri Horton and senior forward Davalyn Cunningham lead the team in scoring, averaging 15.5 and 13.5 points per game, respectively. Cunningham leads the team and is second in the Big East in rebounding with 11.5 rebounds per game. The Scarlet Knights, who return five letterwinners and one starter from last year's 23-8 NCAA Second Round team, are coached by C. Vivian Stringer, who is the only coach in men's or women's NCAA history to lead three different schools to the Final Four (Cheyney State-1982, Iowa-1993, Rutgers-2000).

Not Shying Away From AnyoneIncluding a possible meeting with Rutgers and head coach C. Vivian Stringer in the second round of the ASU Holiday Classic, ASU has played all five of the all-time winning women's basketball coaches in NCAA history in the last three years. Stringer, who was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame last June, is third in all-time wins. In the last five years, ASU has played teams coached by 12 of the 25 all-time winningest women's basketball coaches. In ASU's season-opener, the Sun Devils defeated St. Peter's, which was coached by Mike Granelli who is 10th on the all-time wins list. Here is a list of the top five winningest coaches in NCAA history and when the Sun Devils have played them:

Coach, School	ASU Meeting1. Jody Conradt, Texas			12/2/98 & 12/21/992. Pat Summitt, Tennessee		12/27/00 (AstraZeneca Hoops for the Cure Classic)3. C. Vivian Stringer, Rutgers		11/29/98 & Possible Meeting					in ASU Holiday Classic on Sunday4. Sue Gunter, LSU			3/17/01 (NCAA Tournament)5. Kay Yow, NC State			11/26/00 (Rainbow Wahine Classic)

Turner Thorne Third in All-Time Wins at ASUWith a 69-79 record at ASU, head coach Charli Turner Thorne is already third in all-time wins by a Sun Devil women's basketball coach. Last year's Pac-10 Coach of the Year, she needs just seven wins to move into second on that list and pass Maura McHugh who turned in a 75-65 record in her six seasons at the helm from 1987-93. Juliene Simpson is the all-time winningest coach in ASU women's basketball history, notching a 134-92 record in eight seasons (1979-1987).

Finding Their TouchAfter shooting just 35.5 percent from the field (61-172) in their first three games, including a season-low 29.5 percent vs. Delaware State on Nov. 19, the Sun Devils have started to find their touch. ASU has shot 42.9 percent (78-182) in the team's last three games and has climbed to 39.3 percent on the year (139-354). ASU has also stepped it from three-point land, knocking down 31.6 percent of its three-point attempts (12-38), compared to just 22.2 percent (6-27) in its first three games.

Getting It Done on the GlassThe Sun Devils have outrebounded all six of their opponents this season, averaging 41.5 rebounds per game to just 32.2 for their opponents. In the last three games, ASU has held its opponent to just 30.0 boards, including a season-low 29 by both Western Michigan and Kansas State. Last season, ASU led the Pac-10 in rebounding defense, holding its opponents to just 33.5 boards per contest.

Even more impressive is the fact that the Sun Devils have held their opponents to just 41 offensive rebounds this year, an average of 6.8 per game. In the last three games, ASU's opponents have had just 16 offensive boards (5.3 orpg) and scored just 10 second-chance points (3.3 ppg).

Lighting Up the ScoreboardSenior guard Amanda Levens is averaging 19.0 points per game this season, including two 20-point performances and one 30-point effort. The transfer from Old Dominion University scored a career-high 30 points in ASU's season-opening win over St. Peter's and had a team-high 20 in the loss to Loyola Marymount, while in the Paradise Jam, she just missed tying her career high with 29 points in ASU's win over Kansas State. Leven's 30-point effort vs. St. Peter's marked the most points for a Sun Devil since Molly Tuter scored 32 in a 70-66 victory over Southern Utah on Nov. 8, 1997. In her short ASU career, Levens has led the Sun Devil squad in scoring in 17 games and has had 10 efforts with 20 points or more.

Contributions from the RookiesArizona State's four newcomers have started to come on, turning in eight season highs in points, rebounds and steals in ASU's three games in the Virgin Islands. Freshman Kylan Loney, who has started all six games at point guard, is second on the team in minutes played (27.5) and assists (3.8) and turned in a pair of scoring highs in St. Thomas. She had six points vs. Western Michigan and then notched the best game of her young career with nine points and six assists vs. Richmond. Freshman guard Lauren Stagg had six points and four assists vs. Western Michigan and followed that up with seven points and three rebounds vs. Richmond, which were all career highs. Freshman Carrie Buckner, who led the Paradise Jam with 2.3 steals per game, had a career-best nine points and five steals vs. Kansas State, while freshman forward Alexis Tate had two points and a rebound in each of ASU's last two games in St. Thomas and played a career-high 10 minutes vs. Kansas State.

Quick Hits- While the Sun Devils have gotten to the free throw line an astounding 175 times in six games (29.1 times per game), the team has struggled at the charity stripe, knocking down just 61.7 percent of its attempts (108-175). Senior Amanda Levens, who is first on the ASU single-season charts for free throws and second in attempts, has already been to the line 62 times this year and has knocked down 77.4 percent of her attempts (48-62).

- Senior center Melody Johnson has notched double figures in all but one game this year and all but three games in her ASU career. She turned in her first double-double of the season and the sixth of her career with 16 points and 11 rebounds vs. Richmond to earn Paradise Jam MVP honors. Johnson has averaged 14.3 points per game over the last four contests.

- After leading the Pac-10 in scoring defense last year (61.5 ppg), ASU has continued its stingy ways in 2001-02, allowing just 61.8 points per game this year. Delaware State scored just 42 points on Nov. 19, while ASU held Kansas State to a season-low 58 points, 27 points below the Wildcats' season average of 85.7 ppg.

- ASU is averaging 9.5 steals per game, including a season-high 14 steals in the team's win over Delaware State Nov. 19. The 14 steals vs. the Hornets marked the most since the team had 16 in a win over Cal State Northridge last year, while the Sun Devils have reached double figures in the category in three games this year. Senior Cian Carvalho led the team in steals with 11, including a career-best six vs. Delaware State, while freshman Carrie Buckner is right behind her with 10 steals this year, including a career-best five in ASU's win over Kansas State.

- Senior Amanda Levens has moved into sole possession of fifth place on ASU's career list for three-pointers made with 70 in her career. She has knocked down a team-best 10 this season and is shooting 37.0 percent from beyond the arc this season (10-27). Over the last three games, Levens has shot 42.9 percent from three-point land (6-14), including a season-best four-of-eight vs. Kansas State. She is now chasing Ryneldi Becenti (90 in 1991-93) for fourth place, while Crystal Cobb (1989-94) holds the ASU school record with 134 three-pointers in her career.

Tough SlateThis season, Arizona State will play 11 games against six teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament or the Women's National Invitation Tournament last year. NCAA qualifiers on the 2001-02 slate include Oregon, Stanford and Washington, while Loyola Marymount, Arizona and Oregon State advanced to the WNIT. The Sun Devils also have a chance to take on NCAA qualifier and Big East powerhouse Rutgers in the second round of the ASU Holiday Classic.

ASU Picked Second, Fourth in Preseason Pac-10 PollsArizona State has been picked to finish second in the Pac-10 Conference by the media (with a pair of first-place votes) and fourth by the league's coaches. Last year, ASU was tabbed fifth by the coaches and sixth by the media in their preseason polls but surpassed all outside expectations by finishing in a tie for first with Stanford and Washington for ASU's first ever Pac-10 basketball title.

Pac-10 Conference HonoreesThe Sun Devils return a trio of all-conference performers from one season ago, including senior center Melody Johnson and senior guard Amanda Levens who were named to the All-Pac-10 Conference first team, marking the first time in school history that ASU has had two players earn first-team accolades. Arizona was the only other school to have two first-team selections last year. Freshman guard/forward Betsy Boardman was named to the five-player Freshman All-Pac-10 squad, marking the third consecutive season that the Sun Devils have had a player named to the all-rookie team. In addition, three Sun Devils earned Academic All-Pac-10 honors with junior Leah Combs becoming ASU's first first-team selection since 1990.

Head coach Charli Turner Thorne was named the 2001 Pac-10 Conference Coach of the Year as selected by the league's coaches, ASU's first such honor, and was one of eight finalists for the 2001 Russell Athletic/WBCA Division I National Coach of the Year Award. As a finalist, Turner Thorne earned the distinction of WBCA District 8 Coach of the Year as selected by WBCA member coaches from that geographical region.

Pac-10 Postseason TournamentA new era starts as the Pac-10 begins its first annual Women's Basketball Tournament on March 1-4, 2002, at McArthur Court on the campus of the University of Oregon, in Eugene, Oregon. The league's Directors of Athletics and the Pac-10 Council approved the postseason tournament last fall. The Pac-10 postseason tournament will be a 10-team event which will be hosted by one of the Pac-10 members on its campus each year. A total of nine games will be played with the champion earning the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

Head Coach Charli Turner ThorneSince Charli Turner Thorne took over the reins of the program in 1996-97, the Sun Devils have begun a steady climb back to the national prominence that the team enjoyed in the early 1990s. That climb culminated in 2000-01 when Turner Thorne's Sun Devils captured ASU's first Pac-10 Championship, an NCAA berth, a return to the national rankings and the team's first 20-win season in nine years. The 2001 Pac-10 Coach of the Year and District 8 Regional Coach of the Year has improved the team's wins total in each of her five seasons and guided ASU to five consecutive double-digit win seasons in as many years. In 1999-00, Turner Thorne led the Sun Devils to a 14-14 regular-season record and a 7-11 mark in the Pac-10 Conference, both of which marked the school's most victories since 1992-93. Turner Thorne's Sun Devils also earned the team's first postseason appearance in eight seasons, falling to Colorado State 66-54 in Fort Collins, Colo., in the first round of the 2000 Women's National Invitation Tournament.

First and Facts About The 2000-01 Season* The Sun Devils won their first Pac-10 Conference title, clinching a three-way tie with Stanford and Washington, and earned the school's first NCAA Tournament bid since 1992. The Sun Devils had been picked to finish fifth and sixth in the preseason conference polls by the coaches and media, respectively.

* Arizona State won 20 games for the first time since 1991-92, including 12 at home which tied the school record.

* Arizona State cracked the national top 25 for the first time since 1991-92, was ranked in consecutive weeks for the first time since 1982-83 and finished in tie for 25th in the final Associated Press poll, the team's first ranking in the final poll of the year in 18 years.

* The Sun Devils won seven consecutive Pac-10 games (Jan. 11 to Feb. 8) for the first time in school history and turned in their longest overall winning streak since the 1991-92 squad opened the season with a school-record nine wins.

* The Sun Devils upset three ranked opponents which they had not done in a single season since the 1991-92 NCAA Tournament-bound Sun Devils downed No. 17 Kansas, No. 21 Cal and No. 5 Stanford.

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