Women's Basketball Game of the Week preview: No. 9 ASU at No. 13 Stanford

TheSunDevils.com, Stanford Photo

Who: No. 9 Arizona State at No. 13 Stanford

When: Sunday, Feb. 14, at 6 p.m. PT/7 p.m. MT, with Ann Schatz, Mary Murphy and Kyndra de St. Aubin on the call.

Stanford looks to even the score with Arizona State and stay within shouting distance of the top of the conference table as we begin to enter the home stretch of conference play.

The Story So Far: No. 13 Stanford (20-5, 10-3 Pac-12)

If the Cardinal can’t get up for this one, it’ll never be able to get up for any game. The last time these teams played, Arizona State held Tara’s Team to a program-worst 31 points in a lopsided 18-point beat down, limiting the Cardinal to just 26 percent shooting in the process. In that game, Stanford committed six more turnovers (17) than buckets from the field (11), as nobody scored more than Lili Thompson’s seven points.

If revenge isn’t enough of a motivating factor, staying in the Pac-12 championship hunt better be. The Cardinal has performed well after being held under 40 for the second time this season in a 56-36 loss at UCLA, winning five in a row heading into the Valentine’s Day affair. Stanford is two games back of both Arizona State and Oregon State, but the Cardinal can make things interesting at the very least. A win Sunday night would move Nerd Nation to within one game of second place and keep them within at most two games of Oregon State, a team they get on their home court on the final weekend of conference play. If the Sun Devils (still host Washington and play at the LA schools) and Beavers (still host UCLA and have the Bay Area trip) can both lose one more game outside of dropping a contest to Stanford, the Cardinal could still be in play for the league crown.

The Story so Far: No. 9 Arizona State (21-4, 12-1 Pac-12)

Nothing like a little adversity to test your mettle, eh? Arizona State has faced its fair share of it on the court in February after entering the month on cruise control as winners of 15 in a row. First there was the 67-44 loss to Oregon State on ESPN2 in a battle of top-10 teams for conference supremacy, a game in which the Sun Devils were held to 18 percent shooting and 15 points in the second half. The Sun Devils then hung on to beat UCLA after nearly blowing a 17-point first-half lead and then needed some heroics from leading scorer and rebounder Sophie Brunner to defeat USC, as Brunner converted a 3-play with 1.4 seconds left to lift the Sun Devils to a 69-68 win over the Trojans. Last time out, Arizona State was held to five second-quarter points and was tied at the half with tied-for-10th Cal before pulling away for a 15-point win.

So for the most part, Arizona State has been able to overcome the inevitable tough stretches and will obviously need to continue doing so to stay tied with Oregon State for first. A win in Maples on Sunday would not only give the Sun Devils the regular-season sweep over the Cardinal, it would also more or less eliminate a contender from the Pac-12 race, as a win would put the Sun Devils three games ahead of Stanford with four to play. ASU finishes the regular season with a homestand against the Washington schools before wrapping up in Los Angeles, so there are plenty of tough games ahead for the Sun Devils.

Three Players to Watch: Stanford

  1. #1 Lili Thompson (5’7 Guard, Junior)- Thompson responded in the biggest way when her team needed it most after that 20-point drubbing at the hands of UCLA, erupting for 57 points in the homestand against the Washington schools to earn her espnW National Player of the Week and Pac-12 Player of the Week honors. She wasn’t nearly as successful against Cal in two games (21 combined points on 33 shots), but played a big role in Stanford’s critical 13-0 run to open the third quarter in the game in Berkeley that helped push Stanford out to a 60-55 win.
  2. #12 Brittany McPhee (6’0 Guard, Sophomore)- The reserve wing played a huge part in Stanford coming back from seven points down at the break at Cal, scoring four points in that aforementioned 13-0 run and finishing the game with 12. She has begun to heat up beyond that game – after starting her career 9-of-48 from downtown (19 percent), McPhee has made 17 of her last 40 long balls (43 percent) heading into Sunday.
  3. #44 Karlie Samuelson (6’0 Guard, Junior)- We’ve discussed her shooting prowess before, but this stat is worth mentioning – entering the weekend, Samuelson has hit 22 of her last 39 3-pointers (56 percent). Entering Sunday she's fifth in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage and was the only Cardinal player to hit a triple against Arizona State in the first contest (she was 1-of-3, the team was 1-of-9 overall).

Three Players to Watch: Arizona State

  1. #0 Katie Hempen (5’9 Guard, Redshirt Senior)- Known for being an absolute grinder in practice and having a high basketball IQ (a little Michelle Smith supplement never hurt anybody), Hempen is also pretty good when it comes to game time. She isn’t the team’s leading scorer, but she can pile on points when she needs to, as evidenced by her 20-point outing to help carry the Sun Devils past UCLA in their bounce-back game after the loss to Oregon State.
  2. #23 Elisha Davis (5’3 Guard, Senior)- The Oakland native had a solid start to her personal homecoming weekend, posting eight points and seven assists in the win over Cal Friday night. For the season, Davis leads the team with 130 helpers, and her 5.2-per-contest average is good for third in the Pac-12.
  3. #24 Kelsey Moos (6’0 Forward, Junior)- She won’t show up in the scoring column much, but Moos is a huge contributor on the offensive end, leading the team with 2.3 offensive rebounds per game. Her four offensive rebounds helped lead to 17 second-chance points for Arizona State in Friday’s win over the Golden Bears.

Three Notes to Know

  1. Are you ready for some defense? Heading into Sunday’s contest, Arizona State has held teams to 17.4 points per game below their season average, while Stanford keeps teams to 15.9 points under their average.
  2. ASU’s accomplishment 28 years in the making- Arizona State has won three straight regular-season games against Stanford, the first time that has been accomplished against the Cardinal since 1988.
  3. Approaching quadruple digits- Stanford is three wins away from 1,000, getting No. 997 Friday night with an 82-58 triumph over Arizona. The victories this year haven’t come against cupcakes, either, as its 14 top-100 RPI wins are second in the nation.
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