Stanford will be the underdog in Pac-12 Women's Basketball Tournament semifinal vs. Arizona State
SEATTLE - Stanford, a traditional women’s basketball juggernaut, has entered new territory. Just listen to coach Tara VanDerveer talk about Saturday night’s matchup with second-seed Arizona State in the semifinals of the 2015 Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament.
“This is the first time that I can remember that we will be wearing a dark uniform in the Pac-12 Tournament and that we’re the underdog,” VanDerveer said. “I like it.”
The game is set for broadcast on Pac-12 Networks and the Pac-12 Now mobile app starting at 6 p.m. PT. Saturday only, Pac-12 Networks is offering free access to both semifinal game broadcasts on Pac-12.com and Pac-12 Now.
The Cardinal, seeded third here, lost both regular season matchups to ASU, marking the first time the Sun Devils had swept Stanford since 1983-84 when there was no conference women’s tournament and VanDerveer wasn’t yet coach. The latest pair of losses were by a combined four points.
The Sun Devils won, 60-57, January 19 at Maples Pavilion, and came back with a 53-52 win Feb. 6 at Wells Fargo Arena. ASU, ranked No. 9 in the country, is perhaps playing as well as it has this season. The Sun Devils (27-4) have won six in a row. The 27 victories are the second most in the history of the program, behind the 31 tallied by the 2006-07 Sun Devils.
[Related highlights: Sun Devils secure spot in semis with win over WSU]
Coach Charli Turner Thorne’s squad turned in another convincing performance in Friday’s quarterfinals, beating Washington State 67-48 after shooting just 27.6 percent in the first half. They bounced back in the second half to make 17-of-24 shots (70.8 percent), turning a close game against a feisty WSU team into a rout.
“We've been a little slow starting lately offensively, and then we've been able to get it going in the second half this last week or so,” said Turner Thorne. “I thought we did a great job in the second half just settling down, taking care of the ball, and kind of doing what we can do.”
However, ASU’s defense was solid for 40 minutes. The Sun Devils held a potent Cougars’ offense to 36 percent shooting, including 1-for-14 from beyond-the-arc.
[Related highlights: Stanford outlasts UCLA]
“Charli [Turner Thorne] does a great job,” VanDerveer said. “We have to be able to execute against some pressure defense… They’ve gone inside on us so we better do a better job of stopping their inside game. They were good last time. I have a lot of confidence in our team and how we battled with them.”
The biggest challenge for ASU might simply be beating a team three times. Considering that team is Stanford, which has won 10 of the last 13 Pac-12 conference tournaments going into this week, the task becomes more difficult. In Friday’s quarterfinals, the Cardinal survived a late scare from UCLA before prevailing 67-62.
Turner Thorne’s goal? Use her squad’s experience against the Cardinal to her advantage.
“It's really hard to beat a team three times, especially a team that's as good as Stanford [with] that tradition,” she said. “But at least we've played them twice. Unlike Washington State, I think we have the familiarity and we kind of know what we need to do to win.”