'Sunday Showdown' women's basketball preview: No. 23 Arizona State at No. 10 Washington
Who: No. 23 Arizona State at No. 10 Washington
On the call: Krista Blunk, Mary Murphy and Kerith Burke
On the home side: No. 10 Washington (23-3, 11-2 in Pac-12)
The Huskies enter play Sunday in a three-way tie atop the Pac-12 women’s basketball standings, along with No. 8 Stanford (21-4, 11-2 in Pac-12) and No. 9 Oregon State (22-3, 11-2). With just two weeks left in the regular season, the Huskies will need to keep up their winning ways for a shot to win the No. 1 seed entering the Pac-12 Tournament, March 2-5 in Seattle.
Washington has won three straight since dropping a close contest to Stanford, including a couple of blowout wins over Utah and Arizona. Possessing one of the most talented rosters in the country, coach Mike Neighbors guides the nation’s sixth-best offense, which scores an average of 86.3 points per game.
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) February 11, 2017
Huskies to watch
Kelsey Plum: Kelsey keeps on climbing up the NCAA all-time scoring chart as her illustrious career is coming to a close. With 3,212 career points, the seemingly unstoppable guard only trails Jackie Stiles (3,393 points, Missouri St.) and Brittany Griner (3,283 points, Baylor) on the leaderboard.
Plum leads the nation with 30.5 points per game and an average of 3.46 3-pointers per game, while shooting 53 percent from the field and 45 percent from long range. The National Player of the Year candidate is more than just a smooth scorer, though, as she also averages 5.3 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game.
Chantel Osahor: UW’s other resident super senior is on the verge of making her own history on Sunday night. Osahor enters the contest with 995 career points, and would join Amber Hall as just the second player in program history to score 1,000 points and grab 1,000 rebounds.
The nation’s leading rebounder (15.0 per game) is also a dominant force in the paint while giving Washington another sharpshooter from beyond the arc. Osahor is basically a walking double-double at this point, as she has a nation-best 21 so far this season. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better one-two punch than the one the Huskies have in Seattle.
On the away side: No. 23 Arizona State (16-8, 7-6 in Pac-12)
ASU looks like it’s headed to its fourth straight NCAA Tournament, but the team needs to beef up its resume. A road win over Washington would help quite a bit.
It’s been a rollercoaster ride so far in the Pac-12 for coach Charli Turner Thorne and her squad. The Sun Devils have responded from a four-game losing streak by putting together back-to-back victories, including Friday’s 61-58 road win at Washington State.
The Sun Devils have built a defensive identity, giving up just 55.9 points per game, which is second-best in the Pac-12. But slowing down this Huskies team is a tall order for any team.
— Sun Devil WBB (@SunDevilWBB) February 11, 2017
Sun Devils to watch
Sophie Brunner: The Arizona State senior has been a steady presence on the floor all year, leading the squad with 13 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Brunner has been a tough matchup all year for defenders, as they need to respect her mid-range game in addition to her post moves.
In the last meeting against UW, Brunner was held to eight points on 4-of-11 shooting while turning the ball over four times, but the Sun Devils will hope for better results this time around.
Sabrina Haines: The Phoenix native has been heating up for her hometown team, scoring a season-high 17 points in Friday’s win over WSU. Haines has been particularly hot from behind the arc lately, as she has hit 6-of-9 3-pointers over the past two contests.
Haines’ emergence has been key for the Sun Devils, as she gives a strong outside shooter to add to the squad’s inside-out approach. Teaming her with Brunner and fellow forward Quinn Dornstauder gives Turner Thorne a trio playing at a high level as March Madness approaches.
Story to watch
The last time these two teams faced each other on Jan. 15 in Tempe, the Huskies turned a two-point lead after three quarters into a 65-54 victory. Perhaps it’s no surprise that Plum led the way with 15 of her team’s 19 points in the final period. But Plum’s not just a threat to score in the clutch, you’ve got to keep a defender (or two) on her at all times.
Can ASU slow down the game and play at its preferred pace?
Washington loves to push the ball up and down the floor and let Plum work her magic, but the Sun Devils have found a winning formula by grinding down their opponents and hitting timely shots. It will be an interesting contrast in styles as the Devils and Dawgs do battle once again.
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