'Sunday Showdown' women's basketball preview: No. 8 Washington at No. 19 Arizona State

Who: No. 8 Washington at No. 19 Arizona State

When: Sunday, January 15 at 5 p.m. PT/ 6 p.m. MT on Pac-12 Network, Pac-12 Arizona and Pac-12 Washington

On the call: Anne Marie Anderson and Mary Murphy

On the home side: No. 19 Arizona State (13-3, 4-1 Pac-12)

The Sun Devils enter this high-profile Pac-12 'Sunday Showdown' riding a four-game winning streak, including Friday night’s 68-49 victory over Washington State in Tempe. Coach Charli Turner Thorne’s team has turned up the defense lately, giving up just 48.3 points per game over the last three contests.

Sunday’s matchup marks the start of a crucial stretch for ASU, as five of its next six opponents are currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. The Sun Devils haven’t lost to Washington since February 2013, winning four straight against the Huskies in that span.

Sun Devils to watch:

Sophie Brunner: Sophie Brunner has established herself as ASU’s leading scorer once again this season. The 6-foot-1 forward scored 20 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in Friday’s win over WSU to record the fourth double-double of the season. Brunner is averaging 12.8 points on an impressive 54.6 percent shooting, while pulling down a team-best 7.6 rebounds per game.

Quinn Dornstauder: The senior center has been a steady presence in the paint all year for the Sun Devils, both offensively and defensively. Aside from her 9.8 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, Dornstauder also leads the team with 1.3 blocks per contest. It will be interesting to see how she matches up with powerful UW center Chantel Osahor on the low block.

On the visiting side: No. 8 Washington (17-2, 5-1 Pac-12)

The experienced Huskies have emerged as a top-10 team and look poised to make a deep run during March Madness. Washington (88.5 points per game) currently boasts the conference’s highest-scoring offense and ranks fourth nationally. Aside from a 73-70 road loss to Oregon State on Jan. 1, Washington has picked up double-digit victories in every conference matchup so far.

Washington might be armed with some of the conference’s top veterans, but has also been boosted by speedy freshman guard Aarion McDonald (9.8 points per game) lately.

Huskies to watch:

Kelsey Plum: What more can you say about Kelsey Plum? On Friday, she became the first Pac-12 player to surpass the 3,000-point mark for her career, and now she’s eyeing the top 10 all-time in the NCAA. Up next in her sights in former USC great Cheryl Miller (3,018) who ranks 10th on the NCAA career scoring list but amassed her points before the Pac-12 sanctioned women’s basketball as a sport. Whether she’s showing off her sharpshooting skills, setting up her teammates or driving to the hoop, Plum has been tough for anyone to stop this year.

Chantel Osahor: The thunder to Plum’s lightning, fellow UW senior Chantel Osahor has been a dominant force for the Huskies this season. Osahor leads the nation with 13.5 rebounds per game, and is the team’s second-leading scorer with 15.5 points per contest. What makes Osahor so hard to defend is her ability to stretch defenses and hit the 3-pointer, as she is shooting 39.2 percent (29-of-74) from beyond the arc this year, not to mention she has 4.3 assists per game.

Story to watch: All eyes will be on Plum once again on Sunday. The NCAA’s current scoring leader at 31 points per game, she has been putting up some eye-popping percentages from the floor (53.4 percent) and 3-point land (44.3) while racking up 5.4 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. But the Sun Devils tote the Pac-12’s best defense, giving up an average of just 53.5 points per game.

It will be a classic matchup of an unstoppable force (Plum) versus an immovable object (ASU defense) that is sure to provide some fireworks. The contest also affects the big picture of the Pac-12, as UW enters Sunday atop the conference standings with a 5-1 record while ASU is tied with No. 10 Oregon State and No. 13 Stanford at 4-1.

 

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