Women's Hoops Takes On No. 3/2 LSU in WSF Classic Championship Game

Nov. 12, 2004

BATON ROUGE, La. -

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Coming off a season-opening 60-50 win over Virginia on Thursday night, the Arizona State Sun Devils continue the 29th season of Sun Devil women's basketball on Friday, taking on No. 3/2 Louisiana State in the championship game of the Women's Sports Foundation Classic. Friday's game will tip off at 7 p.m. Central (6 p.m. Mountain) at the Pete Maravich Center in Baton Rouge, La. ASU's win over the Cavaliers in the first game of the tournament marked the seventh straight season that the Sun Devils have opened the year with a victory and the eighth time in nine seasons under head coach Charli Turner Thorne. Friday against the Lady Tigers, ASU be looking to win its first two games for the seventh consecutive year.

Ninth-year head coach Charli Turner Thorne, the second winningest coach in school history, and the Sun Devils return 11 letterwinners, including all five starters, from last year's 17-12 squad. This season, ASU looks to extend a streak that has seen the team advance to the postseason for a school-record five consecutive seasons. ASU's roster features four seniors this year in guards Betsy Boardman, Lauren Stagg, Carrie Bucker and Kylan Loney. Loney was a first-team All-Pac-10 selection last season after leading the team in assists and three-point shooting. The Sun Devils also return a talented group of four juniors and three sophomores who have made significant contributions in the last two years, including 2004 honorable-mention All-Pac-10 selection Kristen Kovesdy and Pac-10 All-Freshman honoree Emily Westerberg. Joining the returners are redshirt freshman Jacquelyn Johnson and true freshman Reagan Pariseau. Johnson was the 2004 Pac-10 Track and Field Newcomer of the Year after winning NCAA and Pac-10 heptathlon titles last season, while Pariseau was the MVP of the Greater Spokane League last year at Central Valley High School in Spokane, Wash.

In the SeriesASU lost its only previous meeting with LSU, with the then 25th-ranked Sun Devils falling to the No. 18 Lady Tigers 83-66 on March 16, 2000 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in West Lafayette, Ind. That was the only first-round NCAA Tournament game that season between ranked opponents. ASU is 3-11 against teams from the Southeastern Conference.n

LSU advanced to the NCAA Final Four and turned in a 27-8 record last season. The Lady Tigers return 10 letterwinners and four starters from last season's squad, including junior guard Seimone Augustus, a National Player-of-the Year candidate who earned Kodak All-America honors last year.

ExposureAll of Arizona State's games will be broadcast on NBC 1190 AM with 28-year Valley broadcaster Jeff Munn (play-by-play) and Phoenix Mercury general manager Seth Sulka (color) calling the action. Munn, who is a fill-in radio play-by-play announcer for the Arizona Diamondbacks and the club's public address announcer, is in the first year of his second stint as ASU's play-by-play voice. All of ASU's radio broadcasts are also available live on the internet at www.thesundevils.com.

Good StartsThursday's victory against Virginia marked the seventh straight season-opening victory by the Sun Devils who have also opened the season with back-to-back wins in each of the previous six seasons, a streak dating back to 1998-99. Under ninth-year head coach Charli Turner Thorne, the Sun Devils have now won eight of nine season openers. Last year, the Sun Devils opened the season with an 80-48 victory over Akron on Nov. 21 at Wells Fargo Arena. In 2002-03, the Sun Devils won their first five games, the best start since 1991-92 when ASU made the best start in school history with nine straight wins.

The Nov. 11 game with Virginia tied for the earliest start in school history. The Sun Devils also opened the season on Nov. 11 in 1978-79. Thursday's game against the Cavaliers also marks the first time that ASU has begun a campaign on the road since the 1995-96 Sun Devil squad went to Ames, Iowa for the Cyclone Classic.

Tough SlateArizona State has put together one of the toughest schedules in the nation this season. The Sun Devils will take on eight teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament last year, including a Dec. 21 match-up with three-time defending NCAA champion Connecticut. Including Friday's match-up with No. 3/2 LSU, the Sun Devils will take on five teams ranked in the preseason polls, including three of the top five squads in the country during the non-conference slate. The team travels to No. 5/5 Georgia on Dec. 7 and will then play host to No. 4/4 Connecticut on Dec. 21 at Wells Fargo Arena. Two Pac-10 teams - No. 7/7 Stanford and No. 24/24 Arizona - are ranked in the preseason with ASU and UCLA receiving votes.

Against Ranked OpponentsSaturday's game against LSU, which is ranked third in the Associated Press poll and third in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll, will mark ASU's first game against a ranked opponent this season. The Sun Devils went 2-4 against ranked opponents last year, upsetting then No. 24 Washington 84-81 in overtime on Dec. 27 and No. 7 Stanford 73-53 on Feb. 7, both at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe. ASU's last win over a team ranked in the top five came against then No. 2 Stanford when the Sun Devils upset the Cardinal 70-63 on March 4, 2002 in the 2002 Pac-10 Tournament championship game.

Last Night's GameJunior Kristen Kovesdy scored 16 points to lead Arizona State to a 60-50 season-opening victory over Virginia Thursday night to earn a trip to the championship game against No. 3/2 LSU the Women's Sports Foundation Classic.

Down 8-4 early in the game, Arizona State used a 15-4 run, capped off by a three-pointer by senior Kylan Loney, to take a 19-12 lead with 10:19 to play. The Cavaliers never got closer than seven points, and the Sun Devils scored the last four points of the half to go into the locker room with a 35-23 halftime lead. ASU shot 48.1 percent in the first half and had eight steals while holding Virginia to 27.6 percent shooting. Kovesdy turned in 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting to lead ASU in the first half, while Loney had 10 points, knocking down 4-of-5 attempts from the field.

In the second half, freshman Reagan Pariseau scored the first five points of the period to give ASU a 40-23 lead with 16:14 to play. The Sun Devils held a 13-point lead, 46-33, with 8:28 to play before the Cavaliers scored the next seven points of the game to cut the ASU advantage to six, 46-40 with 6:34 remaining in the game. Sophomore Aubree Johnson scored the next bucket of the contest, and the Sun Devils made 8-of-10 free throws down the stretch to secure the 60-50 victory.

Kovesdy led the team in scoring with 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field, while junior Amy Denson led the team with eight rebounds and five assists. Loney added 12 points, and Johnson had 10 points and six rebounds. Virginia senior Brandi Teamer led the team with 18 points, while Teamer and senior LaTonya Blue each had nine rebounds.

Getting It Done on DefenseArizona State has established itself as one of the top defensive teams in the Pac-10 Conference. The Sun Devils have led the league in at least one defensive category in each of the last six years (1998-99 to present). Last year, ASU paced the Pac-10 in rebounding defense (32.2 rpg) and three-point field goal defense (30.4 percent allowed) and finished second in scoring defense (61.1 ppg). By allowing just 32.2 rebounds per game, ASU set a school record for rebounding defense in 2003-04, besting the previous low of 33.3 by the 2001-02 Pac-10 Tournament champion squad. ASU also led the Pac-10 in three-point defense in for the third straight year and the fifth time in six seasons.

In the last six-plus seasons (since the start of the 1998-99 season to present), the Sun Devils have allowed opponents to just 62.7 points and 34.0 rebounds per game and 29.4 percent shooting from beyond the arc (11,347 points, 6,148 rebounds, 502-1710 three-pointers, 181 games).

Early-Season Quick Hits

... Including their two exhibition games, the Sun Devils are holding opponents to just 45.0 points and 31.7 rebounds per game and allowing them to shoot 31 percent from the field (48-155). From three-point land, ASU has been even stingier, allowing opponents to shoot just 10.3 percent from beyond the arc (3-29).

... As a team, Arizona State has turned in 74.7 points and 39.3 rebounds per contest (including the exhibitions) and has shot 48.3 percent (83-172) in the three games, including 57.5 percent in the second half (46-80).

... Junior forward Kristen Kovesdy has led the team in scoring in two of the three games (13.7 ppg), including 16 points last night against Virginia and 20 points in a Nov. 3 exhibition win over Strakonice (Czech Republic). Kovesdy, who ranks third on the ASU career field goal percentage chart at 53.8 percent, has shot 70.4 percent from the field in the three games (19-27), including a 10-of-11 showing against the Czechs and a 7-of-8 effort last night.

... Junior Amy Denson is ASU's leading rebounder with 8.0 boards per tilt in the two exhibitions and last night's season opener. She led the team in rebounding in four games last year and paced the squad in the category in Pac-10 play (4.7 rpg).

... ASU has also averaged 16.0 steals per game in the three outings this year after finishing third in the Pac-10 in the category last season (10.0 steals per game). The Sun Devils reached double figures for steals in 19 of 29 games last year with a season high of 17.

... Arizona State has been picked to finish fourth in the Pac-10 Conference by the media and the league's coaches. It marks the fourth time in five years that ASU has been picked to finish in the upper half of the Pac-10.

Turner Thorne Second in All-Time Wins at ASUWith a 124-112 record in eight seasons at ASU, Turner Thorne needs just 10 wins to tie the school record for victories. Juliene Simpson is currently the all-time winningest coach in Arizona State women's basketball history, notching a 134-92 mark in eight seasons in Tempe (1979-87).

Turner Thorne has led her Sun Devils to a school-record five consecutive postseason bids including WNIT appearances in 2000, 2003 and 2004 and ASU's first back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 20 years in 2001 and 2002. ASU previously had advanced to postseason play in three straight seasons (NWIT runner-up in 1981, NCAA Sweet Sixteen in 1982 and 1983). After a 17-12 mark in 2003-04, Turner Thorne became only the second coach in school history to lead the Sun Devils to four consecutive winning seasons. The last time ASU had four straight winning campaigns was under Juliene Simpson from 1980-81 to 1983-84.

Since Turner Thorne took over the reins of the program in 1996-97, the Sun Devils have regained the national prominence the team enjoyed in the early 1990s. In 2000-01, 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, while her 2001-02 squad tied the school mark for single-season wins with a 25-9 record, advanced to the NCAA Tournament and won the inaugural Pac-10 Tournament Championship.

Up NextASU plays its regular-season home opener on Saturday, Nov. 20, taking on San Diego at 6:30 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena. Saturday night's game will be Faith and Family Night with local churches and groups being invited to the contest. ASU will also host a Military Tribute Night on Nov. 20 with members of all branches of the military and their families being invited to the game and honored. For more information about either event, call the Arizona State women's basketball office at 965-6086.

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