ASU Women's Basketball Faces Bowling Green in NCAA Regional Semifinal on Saturday
March 23, 2007
Coming off a pair of come-from-behind victories in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, the Arizona State women's basketball team will attempt to ascend to heights never before reached in program history when it faces the Bowling Green Falcons on Saturday (noon ET/ 9 a.m. in Arizona) in one of two NCAA Regional Semifinals at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C.
While their school record 30 wins and Top 10 ranking would suggest otherwise, the Sun Devils encountered somewhat of a bumpy road on their way to Greensboro. Two times last week the Sun Devils were forced to overcome double-digit deficits in the final 10 minutes to extend their season. Both No. 14 seed UC Riverside and No. 6 seed Louisville led ASU by as many as 15 points and were leading by 10 and 12 points, respectively, with eight minutes remaining in the game. On both occasions the Sun Devils would author brilliant comebacks.
While not evident on the scoreboard through the first 30-plus minutes of each game, the cumulative effects of ASU's suffocating pressure defense paved the way for sudden offensive explosions. Against the Highlanders the Sun Devils used a 19-2 run to turn a 10-point deficit into a seven-point win. Two nights later against Louisville a 25-4 run erased a 12-point Cardinals lead and sent the Sun Devils to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons. Leading ASU's comeback in both games was sophomore guard Briann January, who averaged 18.5 points in the two games while shooting 60 percent (12-20) from the field. A career-best four three-point field goals punctuated January's 22-point outing against Louisville, which also tied a career-high mark.
Saturday's game will be the first ever meeting between the Sun Devils (30-4) and Falcons (31-3). At stake will be the opportunity to play for a berth in the NCAA Women's Final Four on Monday evening against either the No. 1 seed Duke or No. 4 seed Rutgers.
TELEVISION AND RADIO
ASU's game vs. Bowling Green can be seen live on ESPN. Mike Patrick (play-by-play) and Doris Burke (analyst) will call the game and Holly Rowe will be on the sidelines. The game can also be heard live on KAZG 1440 AM and on the sundevilsportsnetwork.com (subscription-based service). Pre-game coverage will begin at 8:30 a.m. in Arizona. Valley veteran broadcaster Jeff Munn is in his third year as the voice of ASU women's basketball.
ARIZONA STATE HEAD COACH Charli Turner Thorne
The winningest coach in Sun Devil history (202-133) and No. 5 in the Pac-10 in most career wins, Turner Thorne has led the Sun Devils to the NCAA Tournament five times in the last seven years, including the last three seasons in succession. The five NCAA appearances are two more than what ASU had in the 15 years prior to Turner Thorne's arrival in Tempe.
This season has led the Sun Devils to a school record 30 wins (including a school record 16 Pac-10 wins) against only four defeats.
With the aforementioned 30 wins, the Sun Devils have now won 20 or more games three years in a row, something that has happened only one other time in the program's history.
Including this season, the Sun Devils are 79-21 (.790) since 2004-05.
During the second half of last season Turner Thorne led ASU on a school record 10-game winning streak after leading the Sun Devils to a school record-tying nine-game winning streak earlier in the same season (also led ASU to its first Top 10 ranking in 22 years and tied what at the time was the highest ranking in school history - No. 9 - in 2005-06).
Last season led ASU to a 25-7 record and also led ASU to its seventh consecutive postseason berth.
In 2004-05, guided ASU to a 24-10 overall record and its first NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearance in 22 years.
Led her 2001-02 team to a 25-9 record, tying the ASU record for wins in a single season.
Guided ASU to a share of the Pac-10 title in 2001 and the inaugural Pac-10 Tournament title in 2002, the first league championships in school history.
Led Northern Arizona University to consecutive winning seasons in 1994-95 and 1995-96, the first coach in school history to accomplish that feat.
As a player, lettered four years at Stanford where she played under Tara VanDerveer.
Graduated from Stanford in 1988 with a bachelor's degree in psychology and later earned her master's degree in education from Washington in 1990.
Career Record: 242-173
ASU IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
ASU is currently in the midst of its eighth overall appearance in the NCAA Tournament, its third consecutive and fifth in the last seven seasons.
ASU's No. 3 seed is its highest ever placement in the NCAA Tournament. ASU's previous highest seed was No. 4 in 1982, 1983 and 2006.
ASU's overall record in the NCAA Tournament is 8-7, including a 6-4 record under Charli Turner Thorne.
ASU has reached the Sweet Sixteen on four occasions (1982, 1983, 2005 and 2007). In both 1982 and 1983, the fourth-seeded Sun Devils lost to the eventual national champion in the round of 16, falling to Louisiana Tech in 1982 and USC in 1983.
As a No. 4 seed last season the Sun Devils defeated Stephen F. Austin in the first round in Tucson (80-61) before falling to Utah in the second round (65-86). The Utes would eventually advance to the Albuquerque Regional final where they nearly upset eventual national champion Maryland before falling in overtime.
Two years ago the Sun Devils advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in 22 years before falling to North Carolina, 79-72. The tourney began with an 87-65 victory over No. 12 seeded Eastern Kentucky at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif. The Sun Devils then advanced to the Sweet Sixteen after upsetting No. 5 seeded Notre Dame, 70-61. In that game the Sun Devils overcame a 13-point first half deficit. In the Sweet Sixteen against UNC, the Sun Devils led by as many as 10 points and were within two points, 60-62, with 9:29 remaining before the Tar Heels closed out the game with a 17-12 run.
ASU's first NCAA appearance in the Turner Thorne era came in 2001. As the No. 11 seed in the Midwest Region, the Sun Devils fell to No. 6 seeded LSU in the first round, 83-66.
Turner Thorne earned her first victory in the NCAA Tournament the following year after the No. 9 seeded Sun Devils defeated No. 8 seeded Wisconsin in the first round of the Midwest sub-regional, 73-70. ASU would fall to top-seeded Vanderbilt in the second round, 61-35.
ASU VERSUS THE GREENSBORO REGIONAL
Of the other three teams - No. 1 seed Duke, No. 4 seed Rutgers and No. 7 seed Bowling Green - remaining in the Greensboro Regional, Rutgers is the only school which ASU has a prior history with. The Sun Devils and Scarlet Knights have encountered one another three times in the past (ASU leads series 2-1) with the most recent meeting on Dec. 2, 2002 when the Sun Devils prevailed 59-56 in the finals of the ASU Holiday Classic.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
This is the fourth time in school history that ASU has advanced to the regional semifinals. A win over Bowling Green would give ASU its first ever appearance in the Elite Eight. ASU would be the fifth Pac-10 school to have advanced at least as far as the Elite Eight, joining Stanford, UCLA, USC and Washington.
The Sun Devils are 8-1 all-time against Mid-American Conference opponents.
ASU is shooting 83.2 percent from the free throw line (94-113) in its last six games. During that same span the Sun Devils are shooting 88 percent from the free throw line (30-34) in the final two minutes of games. Individually, the Sun Devils have six players - Emily Westerberg (.867), Briann January (.812), Aubree Johnson (.800), Reagan Pariseau (.761), Kirsten Thompson (.756), Danielle Orsillo (.750) - who are shooting 75 percent or better from the line.
Three Sun Devils - Briann January (13.2), Johnson (12.9) and Westerberg (12.1) - are averaging double figures in scoring in ASU's last 10 games. Included in January's last 10 games include a pair of career-best 22-point outings most recently against Louisville last Monday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Johnson's career-best point total prior to ASU's 61-48 win over Oregon on Feb. 8 was 16. Since then she has scored 17 or more points three times, including a career-best 27 points in the Sun Devils' 78-63 win vs. Oregon State (Feb. 10).
Currently with 1,319 career points, senior F Emily Westerberg needs 45 points to pass former Sun Devil Kristen Kovesdy (1,363 points from 2003-06) for No. 5 on ASU's all-time scoring list. Westerberg is also currently No. 3 on ASU's all-time list for most career free throws (343) and No. 7 for most field goals (462).
Senior G Jill Noe (106 career three-point FGs) needs 11 three-point FGs to tie former Sun Devil Molly Tuter for No. 5 on ASU's all-time list. She also needs 70 points to become the 18th player in Sun Devil history to score 1,000 career points.
This will be the fifth straight contest in which the Sun Devils will face a team which has a current or past conference player of the year. Senior forward Ali Mann of Bowling Green was the co-winner of this year's Mid-American Player of the Year. In the semifinals of the Pac-10 Tournament the Sun Devils faced California and current Pac-10 Player of the Year sophomore F/C Devanei Hampton. In the finals of the Pac-10 Tournament ASU faced Stanford and junior Candice Wiggins, who was named Pac-10 Player of the Year in both 2004-05 and 2005-06. In the first round of the NCAA Tournament UC Riverside had the Big West Player of the Year in the form of junior F/C Kemie Nkele. And in their most recent outing against Louisville, the Sun Devils had to contend with Big East Player of the Year Angel McCoughtry.
PRESSURE DEFENSE PAYS BIG DIVIDENDS
'Gradually, and then suddenly.' Those were the words of a character describing how he went bankrupt in Ernest Hemingway's 'The Sun Also Rises.' Eighty-one years later those very words can also be used to describe the abrupt manner in which the Sun Devils often take control of games. Combining a tenacious pressure defense with the talents of a roster which includes nine players who play 12 or more minutes per game, the Sun Devils have shown a knack for quickly being able to break games wide open when their opponents begin to feel the effects of the frenetic pace with which ASU plays on both ends of the floor. At no time has this been more evident than in ASU's last six contests, all of which have been close in the game's final five minutes. In its last six games ASU has outscored its opponents by an average of 13.2-6.8 in the game's final five minutes (ASU outscored its last two opponents, UC Riverside and Louisville, by an aggregate total of 30-6 in the final five minutes). During that span ASU has shot 54.3 percent (19-35) compared to 28.9 (13-45) percent by its opponents, including 1-10 from three-point range. In addition, the Sun Devils have also out-rebounded the opposition by an average of 6.2-3.0.
FOUR SUN DEVILS EARN ALL-PAC-10 HONORS
Arizona State senior forwards Aubree Johnson and Emily Westerberg were named to the All-Pacific-10 Team, leading a group of four Sun Devils who received all-league honors. With the honor, Westerberg is the first Sun Devil to be named to the All-Pac-10 Team three times.
In addition to Johnson and Westerberg's accolades, sophomore guard Briann January was named All-Pac-10 Honorable Mention and guard Dymond Simon was named to the Pac-10 All-Freshman Team. The All-Pac-10 and All-Freshman Teams were determined by a vote of the league's 10 head coaches.
One of the Pac-10's most accurate shooters, Johnson led the team and finished the regular season ranked No. 2 in the Pac-10 in field goal percentage (.554). Johnson's play was one of the most important factors in helping the Sun Devils win a school record 16 Pac-10 games this season. During ASU's recent nine-game winning streak Johnson led the team in scoring, averaging 13.4 points per game. Last month Johnson was named the Pac-10's Player of the Week after averaging 22.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.5 blocks, 3.0 steals and 2.0 assists in ASU's wins over Oregon (61-48) and Oregon State (78-63). She had career-bests in points (27) and field goals (12) in the Oregon State win, the most by a Sun Devil in either category since December of 2005.
The team leader in points per game (13.4) and third in rebounds per game (4.9), Westerberg's steady play has helped the Sun Devils to a school record 28 wins this season. One of ASU's 2006-07 co-captains along with Johnson, Westerberg has led or tied for the team lead in scoring 11 times this season and has led or tied for the team lead in rebounding five times. She has scored in double figures in 24 of the 31 games she played in. Named to the Naismith Award Watch List earlier this season and currently a finalist for Kodak All-America honors, Westerberg finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in the Pac-10 in free throw percentage (.852) and No. 8 in field goal percentage (.526).
One of the Pac-10's top defenders, who is also known for her outstanding playmaking ability, January picked up right where she left off last season when she was named to the Pac-10's All-Freshman Team. During the regular season January led the Sun Devils in both assists (4.2 apg, fourth in the Pac-10) and steals (2.2 spg, second in the Pac-10). She also finished fifth in the Pac-10 in assist-to-turnover ratio and ninth in free throw percentage (.789). January has had two or fewer turnovers 18 times this season, and had one or zero turnovers 12 times. In addition, January has scored in double figures 16 times this season, including 12 times in ASU's last 17 games. Most recently, January averaged 18.5 points while shooting 60 percent (12-20) from the field in ASU's come-from-behind NCAA tournament wins over UC Riverside and Louisville. A career-best four three-point field goals punctuated January's 22-point outing against the Cardinals, which also tied a career-high mark.
One of ASU's top newcomers entering the 2006-07 season, Simon was having a stellar season before suffering a torn ACL in ASU's 62-54 win vs. USC (Jan. 21). At the time of her injury, Simon, who averaged 17.1 minutes in 20 games, was third on the team in scoring (9.7 points per game) and second on the team in steals (1.6 per game). Simon, who scored in double figures seven times this season, earned Pac-10 Player of the Week kudos after averaging 20 points, 3.0 assists and 1.5 steals in ASU wins vs. Washington State (Jan. 4) and Washington (Jan. 7). In the two games Simon connected on 78.9 percent of her shots, including 4-of-5 from three-point range (80 percent). She scored a career-best 24 points on 9-of-11 shooting (.818) and tied her career-best with five assists in ASU's victory over the Cougars. Against the Huskies, Simon was equally efficient scoring 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting (.800) to go along with one assist and one steal.
WESTERBERG BECOMES FIRST SUN DEVIL TO EARN ALL-PAC-10 HONORS THREE TIMES
Two weeks ago Arizona State senior F Emily Westerberg was named a finalist for Kodak All-America honors. For Westerberg the honor was the latest in a career that has been one of the most decorated in school annals. Earlier this month Westerberg made history when she became the first ASU player ever to earn All-Pac-10 honors three times.
Earlier in the season Westerberg was named to the watch list for the 2007 Naismith Award, which is presented annually to the men's and women's college basketball players of the year. The Top 50 list was compiled by the Atlanta Tipoff Club's Board of Selectors, comprised of leading basketball journalists, coaches and administrators from around the country. The board based its pre-season criteria on player performances from last season and expectations for the 2006-07 season.
Last season Westerberg became the first Sun Devil since 1992-93 to earn First-Team All-Pac-10 honors in back-to-back seasons after a year in which she finished second on the team in scoring (12.8 ppg), rebounding (5.1 rpg), assists (80) and blocks (9) and third in both steals (34) and three-point field goals (18).
Throughout the 2006-07 season Westerberg's steady play has been instrumental in leading the Sun Devils to a single-season school record for most wins. She was named Most Valuable Player of the season opening Veterans Day Classic after averaging 16.7 points and 4.7 rebounds in wins over Nebraska, New Mexico and Florida Atlantic. She added 21 points in ASU's 83-74 loss to No. 4 Tennessee (Nov. 19). Westerberg's play against the Lady Vols was so impressive that Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt singled her out in her post-game remarks following the game. Said Summitt, 'We didn't have an answer [for Emily Westerberg]. I went over and told her, `You are a heck of a player.' I knew that from just watching tape. She is very efficient. She is just a very skilled player. She plays hard. She gets open. We had a hard time keeping the ball out of her hands. We talked about it at halftime: You have to limit her touches or the numbers are going to mount.'
One of ASU's 2006-07 co-captains along with senior F Aubree Johnson, Westerberg has put up double figures in points 23 times in 29 games this season. She has led or tied for the team lead in scoring 11 times this season and has led or tied for the team lead in rebounding five times. Westerberg finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in the Pac-10 in free throw percentage (.852) and No. 8 in field goal percentage (.526).Earlier this season she became the 17th player in school history to score 1,000 career points following her 20-point outing in ASU's 81-66 win at Gonzaga (Dec. 6). Currently with 1,319 career points, Westerberg needs 45 points to pass former Sun Devil Kristen Kovesdy (1,363 points from 2003-06) for No. 5 on ASU's all-time scoring list. Westerberg is also currently No. 3 on ASU's all-time list for most career free throws (343) and No. 7 for most field goals (462).
WHAT'S NEXT FOR CHARLI?
Arizona State head coach Charli Turner Thorne added another great accomplishment to her coaching dossier earlier this season when the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll revealed that the Sun Devils were ranked No. 7 in the nation, the program's highest ever placement in either of the major polls. Last season Turner Thorne had the Sun Devils in the Top 10 of both polls for the first time in 22 years. If the figure `22 years' sounds familiar it's because in 2004-05 Turner Thorne led the Sun Devils to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 22 years. After leading the Sun Devils to a 25-7 record last season Turner Thorne was recognized for the job she has done with ASU in being named the Russell Athletic/Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Region 8 Coach of the Year.
Currently in the midst of her 11th season in Tempe, Turner Thorne has more than established the Sun Devils as one of the teams to watch on an annual basis not only in the Pac-10 Conference, but also across the country. In fact, since the 2000-01 season the Sun Devils have won the second-highest number of overall games (157) in the Pac-10 Conference. On Feb. 24 at Arizona, Turner Thorne led the Sun Devils to their 26th win of the season and their 16th Pac-10 win of the season (both school records). Turner Thorne is currently No. 5 among Pac-10 coaches in all-time victories with 202. On Feb. 1 she earned the 100th Pac-10 win of her career with the Sun Devils' 75-64 win at Washington. She reached another milestone on Mar. 4 when the Sun Devils defeated California 60-53 in the Pac-10 semifinals. The win was the 200th for Turner Thorne at ASU.
The Sun Devils are 35-3 in their last 38 regular season games (includes 25-2 mark in their last 27 regular season Pac-10 games) going back to the 2005-06 season. Included during the 38-game span is a 14-1 record on the road. ASU won its last nine regular season games of 2005-06 and had won its first four this season before falling to the No. 4 Tennessee Lady Vols, 83-74 on Nov. 19. After falling to the Lady Vols, the Sun Devils won their next eight games before falling to Stanford (77-71) in Palo Alto on Dec. 30. Following the loss to Stanford, the Sun Devils won their next seven games before falling to the Cardinal in Tempe (65-73 in OT). The Sun Devils won their last seven regular season games after the late January loss against Stanford.
The Sun Devils have had 11 games this season in which at least four players have scored in double figures, most recently their 80-69 win over UCLA on Feb. 18. ASU has also had one game (vs. UCLA on Jan. 18) in which five players scored in double figures.
Of the schools with at least one loss who are currently ranked in the AP Top 25, ASU, Duke, UConn and Bowling Green are the only schools that have not lost a game by double digits in 2006-07. The last time ASU dropped a regular season game by more than nine points was on Feb. 5, 2005 when it lost 67-53 at Stanford.
The Sun Devils have nine active players who are averaging at least 12.3 minutes per game. Leading the way is sophomore G Briann January who is averaging 25.4 minutes per game. At the time of her injury, freshman G Dymond Simon was averaging 17.1 minutes per game.
ASU is 18-0 this season in games in which it out-rebounds the opposition.
The Sun Devils are 41-4 the last two seasons when they have fewer turnovers than their opponents.
ASU led the Pac-10 in home attendance this season, averaging 3,502 fans per game.
ASU has won 36 of its last 38 regular season home games. After finishing with a 14-2 mark at home this season, the Sun Devils are now 54-4 in Wells Fargo Arena since the 2003-04 season.
Since 2004-05, the Sun Devils are 26-4 in non-conference regular season games. They have defeated five ranked teams in that span, including No. 11 Georgia and No. 8 UConn in 2004, No. 17 Vanderbilt and No. 18 New Mexico in 2005 and No. 18 New Mexico in 2006. ASU's only losses in that span came at No. 3 LSU in 2004 (54-65), at New Mexico in 2004 (45-61), vs. No. 8 North Carolina in last year's Caribbean Classic in Cancun (72-79) and vs. Tennessee (74-83) earlier this season in Tempe.