@SunDevilWBB travels to Tucson for first road assignment at No. 6 Arizona
WHAT: Sun Devil WBB (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) at No. 6 Arizona (3-0, 2-0 Pac-12
WHEN: Thursday at 4 p.m. MST
WHERE: McKale Center • Tucson, Ariz.
TELEVISION: Pac-12 Network/Arizona
RADIO: KDUS 1060 AM (Coverage starts at 3:30 p.m. MST)
LIVE AUDIO: Click here
LIVE STATS: Click here
For the second time in as many games, the Arizona State women's basketball team will face a Top 10 opponent when it travels to Tucson, Ariz., to take on No. 6/6 Arizona in its first road assignment of the 2020-21 season.
The Sun Devils started off the 2020-21 campaign with four-straight wins. They defeated Stephen F. Austin 56-47, VCU 49-40 and Saint Mary's 62-53 as part of the Global Sports & Events Tip-Off hosted by ASU. In its Pac-12 Conference opener against USC last Friday, ASU led by as many as 15 and then had to hold off a furious rally that allowed the Trojans to tie the game early in the fourth quarter. Freshman Jaddan Simmons scored 14 of her game-high 20 points in the second half, while junior Taya Hanson, sophomore Eboni Walker and freshman Katelyn Levings added nine points apiece in ASU's 63-58 win.
The Sun Devils were denied their first 5-0 start since 2002-03 in a hard-fought 63-59 loss to (then) No. 9 UCLA on Sunday. ASU rallied from 17 points down to tie and eventually take the lead, but was unable to come away with the upset as the Bruins hit a pair of critical 3-pointers and two free throws down the stretch to escape Tempe with the win. Walker led ASU with 12 points while freshmen Simmons (10 points), Levings (nine points) and Maggie Besselink (eight points) combined for 27 points. Sunday's game was Besselink's Sun Devil debut after missing ASU's first four games recovering from as preseason injury. Walker (5-8 FGs), Levings (4-4 FGs) and Simmons (3-6 FGs) combined to shoot 67 percent from the floor (12-18 FGs). The Sun Devils played most of Sunday's game without starting guard Iris Mbulito, who led the game in the first half due to injury.
ASU's abbreviated non-conference schedule – in addition the Global Sports & Events tournament, ASU 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.
After Thursday's game, ASU will return home to host San Diego on Sunday (2 p.m. MST) in its final non-conference game of the season.
Thursday's game at Arizona can be seen on Pac-12 Network/Arizona (Cindy Brunson/Joan Bonvicini). The game can also be heard on KDUS 1060 AM. Coverage will start at 3:30 p.m. 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. He will be joined by former Sun Devil head coach Maura McHugh.
SERIES NOTES VERSUS ARIZONA
The Sun Devils have won 28 of the last 35 meetings, however Arizona has won three of the last four meetings, including a sweep last season – 58-53 in Tempe and 59-53 in Tucson – for the first time since 2000-01... Arizona's 58-53 win on Dec. 29, 2019 was its first in Tempe since 2000... ASU swept the season series in 2015, 2016 & 2018 and split with the Wildcats in 2017 and 2019... In addition to the two regular season wins in 2018 – 75-50 in Tempe and 69-45 in Tucson – ASU also recorded a 76-47 win over the Wildcats in the first round of the 2018 Pac-12 Tournament... Eboni Walker averaged 10.5 points and 9.0 rebounds and connected on 75 percent of her FGs in the two contests.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
• In ASU's first four games, five different players have led or tied for the team lead in scoring: Eboni Walker (3x), Taya Hanson (2x), Bre'yanna Sanders (1x), Sydnei Caldwell (1x), Jaddan Simons (1x). In ASU's win over USC (Dec. 4), Simmons became the first Sun Devil freshman to score 20 or more points since Dymond Simon went for 24 in a win over Washington State on Jan. 4, 2007.
• ASU has allowed 13 or fewer points in a quarter 12 times this season.
• As of Dec. 8, ASU is 15th in the nation and third in the Pac-12 in scoring defense (52.2 ppg).
• Sophomore forward Eboni Walker (11.0) and junior guard Taya Hanson (10.4 ppg) and are currently averaging double figures in scoring. Walker, who leads ASU in rebounding (6.8 rpg/12th in Pac-12) averaged a double-double (12.5 ppg, 12.5 rpg) in ASU's first two contests vs. Stephen F. Austin and VCU. She matched her career highs in both scoring (13) and rebounds (13) against VCU. Hanson matched her career highs with 14 points and six rebounds in ASU's win over SFA. Hanson currently leads the team in triples (7).
• In her last three games, senior Bre'yanna Sanders has averaged 6.7 ppg and 4.0 rpg, while knocking down 78 percent of her shots. Sanders had a career-high nine points in ASU's win over Saint Mary's (Nov. 30). She followed that with a pair of 3-pointers and a career-high eight rebounds while playing a career-high 28 minutes in ASU's win over USC (Dec. 4).
• Freshmen Jaddan Simmons and Katelyn Levings have started each of ASU's first five games. ASU's most recent starting lineup – Simmons (five starts), Mbulito (five starts), Hanson (17 starts), Levings (five starts) and Walker (four starts) – has a grand total of 36 starts between them. Outside of Hanson, ASU's other four starters have an average of 3.8 career starts. On Nov. 30, head coach Charli Turner Thorne announced that junior post Jayde Van Hyfte would miss the remainder of the season due to injury. Van Hyfte started all 31 games last season.
• Simmons became the first Sun Devil point guard to start a season opener as a freshman since 2016. ASU's leader in minutes per game (28.8), Simmons has had only three turnovers this season. In the first Pac-12 series of her career (vs. USC, vs. No. 9 UCLA), Simmons led ASU in scoring (15.0 ppg) and knocked down 87 percent of her free throws (86.7). Levings is averaging 7.2 ppg (fourth on the team) and 4.6 rpg (second on the team) while logging 22.2 minutes per game.
• Simmons (20-23/87.0/fifth) and Walker (16-20/80.0/sixth) are both among the top 10 in the Pac-12 in free throw shooting percentage.
• Sydnei Caldwell has been ASU's top performer off the bench. The sophomore guard leads ASU's reserves in scoring (5.0 ppg), rebounding (3.4 rpg) and is the team's overall leader in steals (2.0 spg/sixth in Pac-12).
• ASU has allowed an average of only 52.2 ppg, forced an average of 20.4 turnovers and held the opposition to only 37.7 percent shooting in its first five games. On average they have scored 17.2 ppg off turnovers.
• The Sun Devils had to show their toughness in the fourth quarter in three of their four wins. Against SFA, the LadyJacks got within one point (44-43) with 3:43 remaining. 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. Against VCU, the Sun Devils held a 33-32 lead with 8:34 remaining and outscored the Rams 16-8 the remainder of the final quarter. Against USC, the Sun Devils had to stave off a determined USC squad that came back from 15 down to tie the game two minutes into the fourth quarter. After USC pulled within two later in the quarter, ASU kept the Trojans from scoring over the last three-plus minutes of the game and Simmons hit three FTs in the final 12 seconds to seal the win.
AT THEIR BEST WHEN PLAYING THE BEST
The Sun Devils have four wins over Top 10 teams over the last two seasons. In 2019, ASU swept Oregon State for the first time since 2010-11 (first Pac-12 team to sweep OSU since 2012-13) winning 79-72 in 2OT vs. No. 10 OSU in Corvallis and 66-54 over No. 9 OSU in Tempe. In 2020, 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).
And then there were the near misses: On Nov. 11, 2018, ASU lost to No. 4 Baylor 65-59, a game in which ASU led by as many as 14 in the first half and led going into the fourth quarter. Less than two weeks later (Nov. 23, 2018), ASU led No. 5 Louisville by six in the fourth quarter before the Cardinals escaped with a 58-56 win after scoring the winning basket with two seconds left. On January 18, 2019, ASU was within two points of No. 5 Oregon in the final minute before eventually falling 77-71 in Eugene. ASU's first game of the year 2020, saw the Sun Devils with a chance to tie or win in the closing seconds at No. 10 UCLA, but could not complete the upset in a 68-66 setback. On Feb. 7, 2020, ASU was seconds away from sweeping No. 9 Oregon State for a second-straight season before the Beavers staged a furious comeback, winning the game 64-62 at the buzzer. Most recently, the Sun Devils came back from 17 down to eventually take the lead in the fourth quarter against No. 9 UCLA. The Bruins used clutch shooting down the stretch to win 63-59 in Tempe.