Women's Basketball Opens Defense of Pac-10 Title With Stanford, Cal This Weekend

Dec. 17, 2001

TEMPE, Ariz. -

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After wrapping up their non-conference slate with a pair of wins at Chicago State and Northern Illinois, the Arizona State Sun Devils return home to open defense of their 2001 Pac-10 Conference co-championship with games against sixth-ranked Stanford on Dec. 21 and California on Dec. 23 at Wells Fargo Arena. ASU is currently riding a seven-game winning streak, which matches the longest winning streak of last year's team and is the team's most consecutive victories since 1991-92. The Sun Devils are also looking for their first win in a Pac-10 opener since 1999-00 when the team snapped a 14-game losing streak to the Stanford Cardinal and opened the conference season with a 2-0 mark for the first time in school history. Stanford comes to ASU with an 8-1 record after losing their first game of the year to No. 2 Tennessee last Sunday. The Cardinal will play at Arizona on Dec. 19 before heading to Tempe. California is 4-3 on the year and will play the Wildcats on Dec. 21 before its match-up in Tempe on Sunday.

ExposureASU's flagship station XTRA 910 AM will broadcast both games to the Valley of the Sun with Vince Marotta calling the action. The broadcast is also available via the ASU official athletics web site (www.thesundevils.com).

Fox Sports Net will televise the California game to a national cable audience with Barry Tompkins and Tammie Blackburn calling the action. It marks the first television appearance of the year for the Sun Devils who were 9-4 when playing on live TV last year.

StreakingASU's seven-game winning streak is the longest for the team since it won seven consecutive Pac-10 games last year from Jan. 13 to Feb. 8. The 1991-92 team holds the school record for consecutive victories, opening the season with nine straight victories.

ASU in Pac-10 OpenersASU is 2-13 all time in Pac-10 Conference season openers, including a 2-5 record when opening at home. Last year, ASU lost at then 21st-ranked Stanford 92-64 Jan. 4 at Maples Pavilion and dropped two of its first three conference games before going on a school-record seven-game Pac-10 winning streak. The season before, ASU opened the Pac-10 Conference slate with two wins for the first time in school history, defeating Stanford 74-68 on Jan. 6 and following that with a 69-59 win over Cal Jan. 8 at Wells Fargo Arena. Prior to their victory over Stanford in 2000, Arizona State had earned a victory in its conference opener only once before, downing Washington State 82-73 in Tempe on Jan. 3, 1991.

Levens Repeats as Pac-10 Player of the WeekSenior guard Amanda Levens has been named the Pac-10 Women's Basketball Player of the Week for the second consecutive week, Commissioner Tom Hansen announced Monday.

Levens, who hails from Belvidere, Ill., averaged 23.5 points in a pair of wins in her native state as ASU defeated Chicago State Dec. 13 and Northern Illinois Dec. 15. Levens led the Sun Devils in scoring in both games, notching 21 points against the Cougars and 26 points against the Huskies. She shot a combined 57.7 percent (15-of-26) from the field and connected on 44.4 percent of her three-point shots (4-for-9). Levens also averaged 5.0 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 2.5 steals in the wins.

The Player-of-the-Week honor is the third of Levens' career and the 20th all-time selection for Arizona State. She becomes the first Sun Devil to ever earn back-to-back selections and is the first ASU player to earn two conference player-of-the-week honors in a season since Ryneldi Becenti in 1992-93.

Last Time OutBelvidere, Ill., native Amanda Levens scored a game-high 26 points to lead Arizona State to its seventh straight win with a 61-50 victory over Northern Illinois Saturday afternoon at NIU's Chick Evans Field House.

The Sun Devils got off to a slow start in the game, falling behind by as many as 14 points when NIU's Lindsay Secrest hit a five-footer to put the Huskies up 18-4 with 12:56 to play in the half. However, ASU took control after that, finishing the half on a 20-2 run that included eight points by Levens and six by senior Rainy Crisp. Arizona State went ahead for the first time in the ball game when senior Melody Johnson dropped in a layup to put the Sun Devils up 21-20 with 3:47 to play, and ASU took a slim 24-20 advantage into the locker room at halftime.

In the second half, ASU saw its lead climb to double digits, opening with a 15-7 run over the first 6:57 of the period and taking a 39-27 lead. Northern Illinois narrowed the gap to just three points, 42-39, with 8:30 to play and then to four points, 54-50, with 1:51 to play, but ASU scored the last seven points of the game to hold on for its seventh straight victory. Levens led the charge with 18 of her 26 points in the second half.

Levens led the team in scoring for the ninth time this season with her sixth performance with 20 points or more. She knocked down 9-of-16 attempts from the field, including three three-pointers, and went 5-for-7 at the free throw line. Johnson chipped in with 11 points and paced the squad with seven rebounds. Levens also led the team with five assists, while Levens, sophomore Betsy Boardman and Crisp all turned in three steals apiece. Jennifer Youngblood led the Huskies in scoring and rebounding with 12 points and eight boards.

Home-Court AdvantageWith a 5-1 home mark this year, the Sun Devils have turned in an 27-7 mark at home in the last three seasons. Last year, the team went 12-4 at home, tying the school record for home victories at Wells Fargo Arena.

In the PollsArizona State is unranked for the fourth week after dropping out of the poll on Nov. 26 but continues to receive votes in each poll (27th in AP, 27th USA Today). Following back-to-back losses on Nov. 21 and Nov. 24, Arizona State dropped out of the polls on Nov. 26 after being ranked 21st and 25th in the Nov. 19 Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN Coaches polls, respectively. Stanford is ranked sixth in both of the Dec. 17 polls, while Cal is unranked.

The Last Time...The Stanford game will mark the first of the year against a ranked opponent for the Sun Devils who notched three wins over ranked opponents (Arizona twice, Oregon) and lost to two others by a combined seven points last year, including a 67-63 loss to then No. 2 Tennessee.

In Friday's game vs. sixth-ranked Stanford, ASU will be playing its first Top 10 opponent since taking on No. 2 Tennessee last year in the AstraZeneca Hoops for the Cure Classic, while the Sun Devils will be looking for their first victory over a team ranked in the national Top 10 since downing then undefeated and seventh-ranked Washington 77-76 at Wells Fargo Arena on Jan. 8, 1998.

About Stanford & CaliforniaStanford brings an 8-1 record to Tempe, dropping its first game of the year last week to Tennessee 68-62 at Maples Pavilion on Dec. 16. The Cardinal will open Pac-10 action at Arizona on Dec. 19 before heading north to Tempe. Senior Lindsey Yamasaki leads the team in scoring this season at 18.1 points per game, while sophomore forward Nicole Powell, a graduate of Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix, is second at 16.7 ppg. Powell, who has led the team in scoring in each of the last three games, also paces the team in rebounding (9.4 rpg) and assists (6.0 apg). Powell is the only player in Pac-10 history to have turned in more than one triple-double, doing so twice this year and three times in her career.

California looks to snap a three-game losing streak when the team heads to the desert this weekend, taking on Arizona on Dec. 21 and ASU on Dec. 23. The Golden Bears won their first four games of the year but finished the non-conference slate with losses to Georgia, San Francisco and Saint Mary's. Senior forward Ami Forney leads the Bears in scoring (13.6 ppg) and rebounding (6.0), while the Cal team paces the Pac-10 in scoring defense, holding its opponents to just 54.9 points per game.

In the SeriesStanford holds a 31-8 advantage in the series with Arizona State, including a 12-7 record in Tempe. Last year, Stanford won both two meetings with a 92-64 win in Palo Alto, Calif., on Jan. 4 and a 51-49 victory in Tempe on March 10. With that victory on the last game of the regular season, Stanford tied the Sun Devils and the Washington Huskies for the Pac-10 title. The Sun Devils' last victory against the Cardinal came two seasons ago when ASU snapped a dubious 14-game losing streak to Stanford with a 74-68 victory in Tempe on Jan. 8, 2000.

California leads the all-time series with the Sun Devils 20-15, while the series is tied 8-8 in games played in Tempe. ASU won both games last year when the Sun Devils snapped an eight-game road losing streak against the Golden Bears in Berkeley with a 58-47 win on Jan. 6 and swept the series with a 70-58 victory in Tempe on March 8.

Stanford & Cal ConnectionsArizona State head coach Charli Turner Thorne is no stranger to the Stanford program, lettering four years under Tara VanDerveer. The Sun Devil mentor co-captained the 1987-88 Cardinal squad which advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. An Academic All-Pac-10 selection, Turner Thorne was twice voted Most Inspirational Player by her teammates and won Stanford's H-Block award in 1988, an honor given to the senior female student-athlete with the highest grade-point average.

Turner Thorne and assistant coach Laura Hughes also have a connection to second-year Cal head coach Caren Horstmeyer. Turner Thorne was an assistant under Horstmeyer at Santa Clara for three seasons from 1990-1993. The Broncos won three West Coast Conference titles in those three seasons including a 28-3 mark and WNIT championship in 1990-91 and a run to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 1991-92. Hughes was a big part of the Broncos' success on the court, starting at power forward in 1990-92. She averaged 15 points and seven rebounds per game and shot a school-record 53.9 percent in her two seasons there.

Lighting Up the ScoreboardSenior guard Amanda Levens, winner of each of the last two Pac-10 Player-of-the-Week honors, leads the team and is ranked second in the Pac-10 at 19.8 points per game this season, including six efforts with 20 points or more. She has led the team in scoring in nine of 11 games this year and has topped the 20-point mark in each of the last three games, including a game-high 26 at Northern Illinois last week.

The transfer from Old Dominion University scored a career-high 30 points in ASU's season-opening win over St. Peter's, while at the Paradise Jam, Levens 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 ASU in scoring in 24 games and has had 13 efforts with 20 points or more.

Joining the 1,000-Point ClubWith eight points against Kansas on Dec. 5, senior Melody Johnson has joined the 1,000-point club and has scored 1,031 points so far in her career. Johnson had 440 points in her two seasons at the University of Colorado and has 591 so far at ASU, while the Colorado Springs, Colo., native needs just 19 more rebounds to reach the 500-board mark for her career (199 at Colorado, 481 so far at ASU).

Senior Amanda Levens, who came to ASU after two seasons at Old Dominion, is also closing in on the 1,000-point club. With 47 points on ASU's trip to Illinois last weekend, she needs just 11 more points to reach that mark (302 points at ODU, 687 at ASU).

The pair also has a shot at becoming the 13th and 14th Sun Devils to join ASU's 1000-point club and the first players since Olivia Jones (1980-83) to do it in just two seasons. Levens needs 313 more points at ASU, while Johnson needs 409 to accomplish the feat.

Amanda's Hot HandSenior guard Amanda Levens has shot 47.3 percent from three-point land (18-38) over the past seven games, including a career-best 6-of-9 performance in ASU's win over Kansas on Dec. 5. She has knocked down a team-best 23 treys and is shooting 42.6 percent from beyond the arc (23-54). Levens has knocked down at least one three-pointer in all but one game this year and all but five games in her Sun Devil career. She has also had more than one three-pointer in six games this year.

ASU's single-season leader with 60 three-pointers made last year, Levens already stands in fifth place on ASU's career list with 83 three-pointers in her career. 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.

Not Shying Away From AnyoneWhen ASU takes on Tara VanDerveer and the Stanford Cardinal on Friday night, the Sun Devils will be facing the fourth team in five games led by a coach who ranks among the 25 all-time winningest coaches in NCAA women's basketball history. VanDerveer is 17th in all-time wins. ASU has played teams coached by 12 of the top 25 coaches over the last five seasons, while in the past three seasons alone, ASU has played all five of the winningest women's basketball coaches in NCAA history.

ASU has already played four of the all-time winningest coaches so far this year, coming up with wins in all four games: Northern Illinois' Carol Hammerle (22nd), Kansas' Marian Washington (16th), Rutgers' C. Vivian Stringer (3rd) and Mike Granelli of St. Peter's (10th).

Scoring DefenseAfter leading the Pac-10 in scoring defense last year (61.5 ppg), ASU has continued its stingy ways in 2001-02, allowing just 55.6 points per game. In the last five games, ASU's defense has allowed just 48.2 points per game, while ASU set a school record by holding Chicago State to just nine points in the first half of its 83-43 victory on Dec. 13.

The Sun Devils rank second in the Pac-10 in the category behind Cal (54.9 ppg). ASU held Fordham to just 40 points, the fewest points given up this year and the fewest since downing South Florida 74-39 on Nov. 19 of last year, while the Sun Devils held Kansas State to a season-low 58 points, 27 points below the Wildcats' then season average of 85.7 ppg.

Getting It Done on the GlassThe Sun Devils have outrebounded all 10 of their opponents this season, averaging 39.5 rebounds per game compared to a Pac-10 low 31.4 for their opponents. In the last eight games, ASU has held its opponents to just 30.3 boards, including a season-low 23 by Rutgers. Last season, ASU also led the Pac-10 in rebounding defense, holding its opponents to just 33.5 boards per contest.

Turner Thorne Third in All-Time Wins at ASUWith a 74-79 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 two 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 (1979-87).

Dishing It OutASU's starting backcourt of senior Amanda Levens and true freshman Kylan Loney is averaging 8.0 assists per game so far this season, the most since Natalie Tucker and Kitch Kitchen averaged 8.4 assists as the second-best tandem in the Pac-10 in 1998-99. Levens and Loney are currently the second-best pair of guards in the league behind Oregon's Shaquala Williams and Edniesha Curry who are averaging 8.5 assists per game.

At 4.4 assists per game, Levens ranks sixth in the Pac-10 in the category and has led the team with five assists in each of the last three games, while Loney is 10th in the league at 3.6 per game. Levens is also ranked seventh in the Pac-10 in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.6, while Loney is ninth in that category at 1.4.

Quick Hits

- ASU emerged from the non-conference slate with nine victories for the first time since the 1991-92 season.

- After shooting just 36.8 percent from the field in its first four games (87-236), ASU has shot 45.3 percent in the last seven (166-366). From three-point land, ASU has improved from 24.4 percent (10-41) in its first four games to 35.3 in the last seven (30-85). Since the first Pac-10 statistics of the year were released two weeks ago, ASU has improved from sixth to fourth in field goal percentage and from 10th to sixth in three-point shooting.

- The Sun Devils have turned in four of their best five shooting performances in the last four games, including a season-high 55.8 percent (29-52) in their victory at Chicago State. The team's shooting performance at Chicago State was the best since ASU shot 61.1 percent (33-54) in a Dec. 3, 1999 victory over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

- Senior guard Rainy Crisp averaged 7.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.5 steals in ASU's swing through Illinois.

- ASU has held its last three opponents to just 15 percent shooting from three-point range (3-20), including an 0-for-6 effort by NIU.

- Senior center Melody Johnson has notched double figures in all but two games this year and all but four games in her ASU career. She turned in her first double-double of the season and the sixth of her ASU career with 16 points and 11 rebounds vs. Richmond to earn Paradise Jam MVP honors. Johnson scored 13 points in just 22 minutes vs. Rutgers with seven in nine minutes in the first half before leaving the game with a knee injury. An ASU Holiday Classic all-tournament selection, she came back from the injury in the second half and had six points in 12 minutes, including a pair of key shots in the paint, in the victory.

- Johnson continues to lead Arizona State in career field goal percentage, converting on 56.0 percent of her attempts (223-398). This year, the Colorado Springs, Colo., native ranks second in the Pac-10 in the category, knocking down 54.3 percent of her attempts from the field (51-94), including a perfect 7-for-7 effort Dec. 13 at Chicago State.

- A total of nine Sun Devils are averaging at least 10 minutes per game, while a 10th Sun Devil, sophomore Jen Albert, is averaging 9.5 minutes per game. Senior Amanda Levens is leading the team in minutes played at 28.1 per game, while true freshman point guard Kylan Loney is second at 26.6.

- While the Sun Devils have gotten to the free throw line 322 times in 11 games (29.3 times per game and 104 more times than any other Pac-10 school), the team has struggled a bit at the charity stripe, knocking down just 61.5 percent of its attempts (198-322). ASU has shot below 60 percent from the free throw line four times this year, including a season-low 53.2 percent twice.

- Senior Amanda Levens has already been to the line 96 times this year and has knocked down 76.0 percent of her attempts (73-96). Last year, Levens set school single-season marks for free throws (146) and was second in attempts (183) and is on pace to eclipse those marks in 2001-02.

- ASU's bench has averaged 21.7 points per game over the last seven contests (152 points), including a season-high 27 points at Chicago State on Dec. 13. ASU's bench has had 20 or more points in five games this year, and the Sun Devils are 8-1 on the year when outscoring their opponents' bench.

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.

Recruiting ClassArizona State's recruiting class for the 2002-03 season is ranked 24th in the nation by Blue Star. Here's a list of the six players that ASU signed in the early period:

Name	Ht.	Pos.	Hometown/SchoolAmy Denson	6-1	F	Central Point, Ore./Crater HSKristen Kovesdy	6-3	F	Scottsdale, Ariz./St. Mary's HSJill Noe	5-10	G	Tualatin, Ore./Wilsonville HSYoVanna Rosenthal	5-7	G	Phoenix, Ariz./Thunderbird HSJenny Thigpin	6-3	F	Hanford, Calif./Hanford HSIman Young	5-9	G	San Pablo, Calif./Contra Costa CC

Tough SlateThis season, Arizona State will play at least 12 games against seven 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, Rutgers and Washington, while Loyola Marymount, Arizona and Oregon State advanced to the WNIT last season.

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.

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