@SunDevilWBB Takes on VCU on Friday at 4 p.m. MST
WHAT: Sun Devil WBB (1-0) vs. VCU (1-0)
WHEN: Friday at 4 p.m. MST
WHERE: Desert Financial Arena • Tempe, Ariz. Note: With health and safety being the top priority, fans are currently not permitted at any sporting competition taking place on Pac-12 campuses.
LIVE STREAM: Click here
RADIO: KDUS AM 1060/Live Audio
LIVE STATS: Click here
The Sun Devil women's basketball team (1-0) plays its second of three home games to start the 2020-21 season on Friday (4 p.m. MST) when it hosts VCU (1-0) as part of the Global Sports & Events Tip-off: Phoenix at Desert Financial Arena.
ASU's abbreviated non-conference schedule – in addition to this week's trio of contests the Sun Devils will also host San Diego on Dec. 13 – and expanded Pac-12 schedule – for the first time since the Pac-12 expanded to 12 teams in 2011-12, teams will play each other twice – comes amid a global pandemic that forced the cancellation of the 2020 postseason last March.
Friday's game vs. VCU will be streamed at https://pac-12.com/live/arizona-state-university-2. Caleb Bouchy (play by play) and former Sun Devil Arnecia Hawkins (analyst) will be on the call.
The game can also be heard on KDUS AM 1060. Pregame coverage will start at 3:30 p.m. MST. Veteran broadcaster and the state of Arizona's 2010 & 2019 Broadcaster of the Year Jeff Munn is in his 17th season as the voice of ASU women's basketball.
The Sun Devils opened the season with a 56-47 win over Stephen F. Austin on Wednesday. Taya Hanson matched her career highs with 14 points and six rebounds, while Eboni Walker recorded her second career double-double (both coming in the last four games, dating back to last season), finishing with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Seven of those rebounds came on the offensive end, which proved to be key in ASU outscoring SFA, 11-1, on second-chance points in the game.
The Sun Devil defense forced 21 total turnovers in the effort while holding SFA to just 34.6 shooting, including a paltry 3-of-17 (17.6) from three.
SFA stayed close, keeping it under two-possessions for much of the second half. The LadyJacks got within one point with 3:43 remaining, clawing back to a 44-43 tally before the Sun Devils pulled away down the stretch. ASU closed the game on a 12-4 run over the final 3:33 of regulation and held SFA to just 2-of-8 shooting down the stretch.
Jaddan Simmons became the first true freshman point guard to earn the start in a season since Kiara Russell in 2016-17. Simmons was one of two freshmen (Katelyn Levings) in the starting lineup. Junior guard Iris Mbulito also made the first start of her career.
The Sun Devils are 20-4 in season openers under head coach Charli Turner Thorne.
SERIES NOTES VERSUS VCU (VCU LEADS 1-0)
VCU claimed the only previous meeting 57-48 in the opening round of the 2015 ASU Classic. Quinn Dornstauder scored a game-high 17 points and Arnecia Hawkins finished with 12 points and a career-high 10 rebounds, who were without starting forwards Sophie Brunner (team leader in rebounds and second in scoring) and Kelsey Moos (second on the team in rebounds) for the third-straight game.
IT'S BEEN A LONG TIME
The last time the Sun Devils played as few as four non-conference games was in 1976 when they also had four competitions out of conference. That season, 13 of their 17 contests were against opponents from the Intermountain Conference.
THE LAST TIME
Prior to Wednesday's win over Stephen F. Austin, the last time the Sun Devils were in action, they were coming off a disappointing 71-67 loss to Cal in the first round of the 2020 Pac-12 Tournament (Mar. 5, 2020). Despite the setback, hopes were high in the desert of the Sun Devils making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Armed with a roster led by five talented and experienced seniors, ASU extended its school record for consecutive 20-win seasons to seven. In January, the team had already shown it was capable of playing with the nation's best teams after becoming the first unranked squad to ever defeat consecutive top-5 opponents (No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Oregon State).
ASU – and every other NCAA squad expecting to hear its name called on Selection Monday (March 16) – would have its collective hearts broken on March 12 when the NCAA announced the cancellation of winter championships, including the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament – due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The NCAA would go on to cancel all spring sports due to the pandemic. Little did anyone know back in March that the uncertainty of a return to competition for all sports would carry over into the present day.
The team started offseason workouts in July with the possibility of still being able to play a full schedule in 2020-21. ASU's non-conference slate included a return trip up north for a second 'Showdown on the Rez' game with perennial power Notre Dame providing the opposition. On Nov. 11, 2018 ASU faced No. 4 Baylor at the BeeHoldzil Fighting Scouts Events Center in Fort Defiance, Ariz. Working in conjunction with ASU's Office of American Indian Initiatives, 'Showdown on the Rez' served as a celebration of Native American Heritage Month and also provide a platform to recognize and honor Native Americans who served in the armed forces.
Any hopes for getting in a full season were dashed on August 11, 2020, when the Pac-12 CEO Group voted unanimously to postpone all sport competitions through the end of the 2020 calendar year.
On September 24, 2020, the Pac-12 CEO Group announced that based upon updated Pac-12 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee recommendations that take into account material changes to testing capabilities, the prevalence of COVID-19 and cardiac issues, along with updated state and local health official guidance, the Conference would resume its football, basketball and winter sport seasons. Men's and women's basketball were permitted to start official competition on November 25, consistent with the NCAA's official start date for these sports, and other winter sports consistent with the NCAA season dates for those sports.
Which now brings us to the present date.
THE 2020-21 SUN DEVILS – THE RETURNERS
Although lacking in experience compared with recent Sun Devil teams, the 2020-21 edition figures to be every bit competitive as its predecessors.
This is the second-straight season in which the Sun Devils did not return a scoring leader who averaged double figures the season before. Sophomore Eboni Walker leads the way among returners after averaging 6.5 ppg last season. Walker played in every game in 2019-20, and led the team in FG percentage (51.9), was second in offensive rebounds (2.8 rpg/seventh in the Pac-12), third in rebounds (4.8 rpg), fourth in steals (0.9 spg) and fifth in scoring (6.5 ppg). She shot 61 percent (27-44 FGs) from the floor over the last nine games of the season.
The Sun Devils return two players with starting experience in the form of juniors Jayde Van Hyfte (started all 31 games last season) and Taya Hanson (played in all 31 games with 12 starts). Van Hyfte led the team in offensive rebounds (2.9 rpg/tied for fourth in the Pac-12) last season was second in rebounds (5.0 rpg) and fourth in FG pct. (44.0). Hanson is the leader of among returners with 31 triples last season.
A 2018-19 Pac-12 All-Freshman Honorable Mention selection who has played in 64 games, Iris Mbulito has shown several flashes of brilliance during her first two seasons in Tempe. She played in every game as a freshman and led the team in free throw attempts, was second in steals (0.7 spg) and tied for fourth in assists (1.6 apg). Last season, Mbulito finished third on the team in assists (2.3 apg), fifth in steals (0.9 spg) and tied for fifth in offensive rebounds (0.7 rpg). In July 2018, Mbulito was named Most Valuable Player of the FIBA U20 Women's European Championship after helping Spain claim the gold medal.
The team's lone senior, Bre'yanna Sanders has played in 61 games over the last three seasons. In ASU's upset of second-ranked Oregon last season, Sanders supplied the team with important minutes, hitting a triple and grabbing four rebounds.
Also returning for the Sun Devils are junior Jamie Loera and sophomore Sydnei Caldwell. An outstanding 3-point shooter, Loera has been limited by injuries each of her first two seasons. Caldwell saw action in 18 games last season and will look to have an even bigger role this season.
THE 2020-21 SUN DEVILS – NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
Last season's original signing class of Maggie Besselink, Keeli Burton-Oliver, Sydney Erikstrup, Katelyn Levings and Jaddan Simmons was ranked as high as No. 5 in the nation (BlueStar Basketball).
A rising star in the Canadian national program, in the summer of 2019 Besselink was selected to Canada's U19 national team that participated in the FIBA World Cup in Bangkok, Thailand. Unfortunately she was not able to play in the tournament due to an injury suffered during the team's training camp. Besselink was ranked No. 23 at her position by ESPN.com.
Burton-Oliver, ranked No. 12 at her position by ESPN.com, displayed tremendous consistency averaging a double-double in points (17.6) and rebounds (12.6) during her 107-game high school at Eastlake High School (Sammamish, Wash).
A 2020 graduate of Beaverton High School (Beaverton, Ore.) and ranked No. 32 at her position by ESPN.com, Erikstrup was named All-State twice (second team in 2018 and honorable mention in 2020) and earned all-league all four seasons – freshman year at Lake Oswego High School and the last three years at Beaverton High School.
Ranked No. 23 at her position by ESPN.com, Levings earned All-State honors from the OGBCA (first team), The Oklahoman (honorable mention) and Tulsa World (honorable mention) for a senior season in which she averaged 15.7 ppg. for Edmond Memorial High School (Edmond, Okla.).
Simmons, ranked No. 31 at her position by ESPN.com, concluded her career high school as the all-time leading scorer in Green Bay metro history after finishing with 1,885 points (averaged 20.1 ppg for her 94-game career). The Green Bay Southwest High graduate was named to the Green Bay Press-Gazette's all-century team.
The Sun Devils added even more budding talent to their roster after signing Imogen Greenslade and Gabriela Bosquez in April.
Joining the Sun Devils all the way from Australia, Greenslade has been a member of the New South Wales U20 Team since 2019. In 2019, Greenslade helped her U20 squad win a Silver medal at the National Championships.
Bosquez transferred to ASU after playing her first two seasons at St. Edwards University (2018-19) and Blinn College (2019-20). In 2020, Bosquez earned Region XIV honors after playing in 31 games (30 starts) and averaging 11.9 points (second on the team), 3.2 assists (first on the team), 4.8 rebounds (fourth on the team) and 1.6 steals (second on the team).
DOMINANT DEVIL DEFENSE
• In 2018-19, ASU led the Pac-12 in scoring defense (58.2 ppg) for the second straight season and the third time in five years.
• ASU has allowed an average of only 57.3 ppg since the start of the 2014-15 season (a span of 201 games). It has held the opposition to 50 or less points 61 times during that stretch (including six times last season). They are 60-1 in those contests (only loss came vs. Cal (50-49) on Feb. 8, 2015.
• The 31 points scored by Maine on Nov. 29, 2019 represented the fewest given up by ASU since Harvard scored 29 on December 14, 2015.
• In historical back-to-back wins vs. No. 2 Oregon (Jan. 10) and No. 3 Oregon State (Jan. 12) last season, ASU held the Ducks and their top-ranked offense 23.5 points below their scoring average and kept the Beavers nearly 30 points below their scoring average of 76.5 points coming into the game. The two teams combined to shoot 18 percent (7-38) from the beyond the arc. ASU held Stanford to 55 points on Mar. 1, tying the Cardinal's lowest point total of the season
HOME SWEET HOME
ASU went 13-3 at home last season and is now 93-20 (.823) in home games the last eight seasons. ASU has won its last 26 home games vs. non-conference opponents in Desert Financial Arena.
NOTES FROM LAST SEASON
• After finishing with a 20-11 record, ASU extended its school record for consecutive 20-win seasons (seven). The Sun Devils were preparing to make their school record seventh straight trip to the NCAA Tournament before the cancellation of the season was announced on March 12.
• ASU finished among the Top 40 in the nation in offensive rebounds per game (21st/15.1 rpg) and rebound margin (34th/+6.6).
• ASU became the first unranked team to defeat consecutive Top-5 opponents when it knocked off then-No. 2 Oregon (72-66 on Jan. 10) and then-No. 3 Oregon State (54-47 on Jan. 12). ASU held the Ducks and their top-ranked offense 23.5 points below their scoring average and kept the Beavers nearly 30 points below their scoring average of 76.5 points coming into the game. UO and OSU combined to shoot 18 percent (7-38) from the beyond the arc. The 30 points ASU scored in the fourth quarter vs. Oregon tied the second-highest point total scored in a quarter by an ASU team.
• ASU was one of only two teams (Louisville) and was the only Pac-12 squad to defeat Oregon in 2019-20.
• Had a season-long winning streak of six games at the conclusion of non-conference play. Longest winning streak in Pac-12 play was five games.
• Coming into this season, ASU had collected 68 wins in non-conference play the last seven seasons, an average of 9.7 wins per season.
• ASU'S bench more than doubled the opposition's bench in points per game, 24.1-11.3. It scored 30 or more points nine times and more than 40 points three times: 41 vs. Air Force, 51 vs. Army and 45 vs. Cal.
• The Sun Devils came back from a double-digit deficit to win three times: -12 vs. BYU, -13 vs. Oregon, -10 at Washington State.