ASU earns highest ranking in program history and other Pac-12 notes

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In this competitive Pac-12 Conference, where upsets, surprises and down-to-the-wire games have already marked this season, the Arizona State Sun Devils are quite comfortable, thanks.

The Sun Devils are the only unbeaten team left in the Pac-12 standings at 6-0, and they’ve had plenty of room to breathe so far, with an average margin of victory over 16.3 points a game.

“We haven’t had a one-possession game yet and two years ago that was every game for us,” Turner Thorne said. “But I’ve watched our game tape and I feel like we can be better. We have all the pieces. We are deep, we have offense, we play good defense and we play hard for each other.”

For their consistency, the Sun Devils have been rewarded with a national Top 10 ranking. ASU is ranked No. 8 in this week’s AP women’s poll, matching the highest-ranking in program history. The only other time ASU was ranked this high was March 5, 2007, a season where the Sun Devils advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight for the first time.

The Sun Devils (15-3, 6-0), on a 12-game win streak heading into this weekend’s rivalry games against Arizona, are succeeding with a balanced attack that is as great as the sum of its parts.

“We are pretty good,” said Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne. “We can score from every position, we are very balanced offensively. You can’t just double- and triple-team one player. We have good shooters and if you leave us one-on-one in the post, we can take advantage of that.”

Arizona State has five players averaging at least 8.1 points a game.

For all of the Sun Devils offensive balance, they currently rank 10th in the conference in scoring offense (64.9 points per game). And to no one’s surprise, they are among the best defensive teams in the league, allowing just 51.9 points, ranking them second in the Pac-12.

“Our numbers aren’t quite where we want them to be, but we were without Kelsey (Moos) and Sophie (Brunner) for a period of time, and it really forced our defense to be all it could be,” Turner Thorne said. “But I think we are growing as a team offensively and with our chemistry.”

Alleyne is Queen of the Boards as Oregon Improves
Oregon’s Jillian Alleyne became the Pac-12’s all-time leading rebounder on Sunday in the Ducks’ victory over Cal, Oregon’s first win in the Pac-12 this season and the first against the Bears in seven meetings.

Alleyne pulled down 15 rebounds in the Ducks’ win over the Bears to bring her career total to 1,574, becoming the latest stellar talent to own this esteemed record.

The Pac-12 rebounding mark has fallen four times since 2010 after a long run of ownership by USC legend Lisa Leslie. And for the first time it belongs to someone other than a Stanford star.

Leslie owned the mark from 1994-2010 with 1,214 career rebounds when Stanford’s Jayne Appel became the new all-time leader in 2010, finishing her career with 1,263. Appel’s teammate Kayla Pederson took over the mark in 2011 with 1,266 and Chiney Ogwumike blew past and finished her career in 2014 with 1,567.

Now Alleyne is the Queen of the Boards in Pac-12 history with 1,574 following the win over the Bears with at least 12 conference regular-season games, the Pac-12 Tournament and a possible postseason berth to add to her remarkable total.

The NCAA record is 2,034, held by Oklahoma’s Courtney Paris (2006-2009).

Alleyne said Sunday that Ogwumike has been in touch with her and rooting for her to break the mark.

“I’ve been talking to her and she’s been like, ‘You’ve got to break the record’,” Alleyne said. “She’s been very supportive.”

Oregon hopes to build on Sunday’s win, improving to 12-5 and now 1-5 in Pac-12 play. All five losses have come against teams ranked in the Top 25.

“I felt like we could have won all the games we’ve played,” Ducks coach Kelly Graves said. 

Cal Struggles in Early Pac-12 Play
On the flip side of the coin, the Cal Bears are 1-5 in conference play, which has to be considered one of the early season’s biggest surprises. The Bears were picked to finish fourth in the preseason coaches poll.

Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb tweeted after Sunday’s loss:

“Really tough stretch. Does not feel good. But we have fighters & will figure it out. Appreciate the people I coach, work with & our support.” 

After a huge weekend at home in which they knocked out two ranked teams in USC and UCLA, the Washington Huskies (14-4, 5-2) are now sitting on the fringes of the national rankings. Washington hasn’t been ranked since March 3, 2003. In this week’s poll, the Huskies received 42 votes.

Plum Nearing 2,000 Points
Pac-12 Player of the Week Kelsey Plum continues to keep her grip on the national scoring lead, averaging 27.3 points a game. Against UCLA, Plum posted the 18th 30-point game of her career and she’s closing fast on a big milestone. The junior guard needs just 50 points to reach 2,000 for her career. Plum has done it in just 85 games, one of the fastest in NCAA history to reach the milestone.

The Huskies are home for a third straight weekend when they host rival Washington State on Saturday at 2 p.m.

That game will feature another of the conference’s extraordinary young talents in Cougars forward Borislava Hristova.

The native of Bulgaria, Hristova – averaging 17.3 points per game - is on pace to break the Cougars’ freshman record in total points, points per game, free-throw percentage and field goals made. She is currently the sixth-highest scoring freshman in the nation.

Another Honor for VanDerveer
Tara VanDerveer does not lack for accolades. The Naismith Hall of Famer has the respect of the entire game. And next week, she will add another honor to her long, long list. VanDerveer will be honored with the 2016 Coaching Corps Lifetime Achievement Award, which will be presented by former Stanford star and current University of San Francisco head coach Jennifer Azzi. The award is part of the Second Annual Coaching Corps Game Changer Awards, and event that will include appearances by NBA MVP Stephen Curry, San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence, Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and will air on Comcast Sports Net Bay Area on Saturday, Jan. 31 at 7:30 p.m.

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