@SunDevilWBB hosts California on New Year’s Day
WHAT: Sun Devil WBB (6-2, 2-2 Pac-12) vs. Cal (0-7, 0-4 Pac-12)
WHEN: Friday at 3 p.m. MST
WHERE: Desert Financial Arena • Tempe, Ariz.
TELEVISION: Pac-12 Network/Arizona/Bay Area
RADIO: KDUS AM 1060
LIVE STATS: Click here
After having its last scheduled contest of the calendar year 2020 postponed (at Colorado on Dec. 20), the Sun Devil women's basketball returns to action on New Year's Day when it hosts Cal at 3 p.m.
The last time they were in action on Dec. 18, the Sun Devils (6-2, 2-2 Pac-12) captured their first road win of the season and evened their Pac-12 record after a come-from-behind 56-48 win at Utah. Junior guard Taya Hanson scored a career-best 15 points while freshman guard Jaddan Simmons added 12 points to help ASU erase a 12-point first-half deficit. Simmons (4-4 FTs) scored nine of her 12 points in the fourth quarter and combined with Hanson (4-4 FTs) and junior guard Jamie Loera (2-2) to go a perfect 10-of-10 from the charity stripe over the final 10 minutes. After the Utes got within two points with 4:21 remaining, the Sun Devils dug in defensively and did not allow Utah to score for nearly four minutes. The Utes would get no closer than four points the rest of the way.
After defeating USC in its Pac-12 opener on Dec. 4, the Sun Devils dropped their next two league contests to Top 10 opponents (then-No. 9) UCLA 63-59 on Dec. 6 and at No. 6 Arizona 65-37 on Dec. 10. The Sun Devils then concluded their non-conference schedule with a perfect 4-0 record after a 64-55 win over San Diego on Dec. 13.
The loss to UCLA denied ASU its first 5-0 start since 2002-03. ASU rallied from 17 points down to tie and eventually take the lead, but was unable to come away with the upset as UCLA hit a pair of critical 3-pointers and two FTs down the stretch to escape with the win. ASU was also without Simmons in the game's final minutes. Sophomore Eboni Walker led ASU with 12 points while Simmons (10 points) and fellow freshmen Katelyn Levings (nine points) and Maggie Besselink (eight points) combined for 27 points. The game against UCLA was Besselink's Sun Devil debut after missing ASU's first four games recovering from a preseason injury.
The Sun Devils played most of their game vs. UCLA and their last three games without starting guard Iris Mbulito, who left the game in the first half of the UCLA contest due to injury. Mbulito's injury was even more magnified as one week earlier head coach Charli Turner Thorne announced that junior post Jayde Van Hyfte, who started every game last season, would miss the remainder of the 2020-21 season due to injury.
The Sun Devils started off the 2020-21 campaign with four straight wins, defeating 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. They started Pac-12 play with a 63-58 win over USC (Dec. 4).
ASU's abbreviated non-conference schedule – four games – 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. California can be seen on Pac-12 Network/Arizona/Bay Area (Cindy Brunson/Tammy Blackburn). It can also be heard on KDUS AM 1060. Coverage will start at 2:30 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 ASU head coach Maura McHugh.
SERIES NOTES VERSUS CALIFORNIA
ASU has faced Cal more than any other team since 2005-06 (33x - ASU 18-15). That stretch includes six meetings in the Pac-12 Tournament, most recently in the first round of the 2020 edition last March, a contest won by Cal 71-67. ASU has won 8 of the last 11 meetings, its most recent triumph 77-54 last February in Tempe. The two teams split in 2018-19: ASU 62-61 in Tempe and Cal 69-60 in Berkeley. Cal's win snapped ASU's five-game winning streak in the series.
HAVEN'T WE DONE THIS BEFORE?
This will be the second time since 2017 that the Sun Devils will face California on New Year's Day. On Jan. 1, 2017, No. 18 ASU jumped out to a 10-0 run in double overtime to hand No. 21 California its first loss of the season and start the new year with a 72-62 victory. Seniors Sophie Brunner (game highs of 21 points and 12 rebounds) and Quinn Dornstauder (19 points, 10 rebounds) both posted a double-double in the win.
SHAKING OFF THE RUST
Between the holidays and final exams, it has not been an unusual occurrence in the past to have anywhere between seven-10 days in between games in the month of December. ASU was already due for a large gap before having its game at Colorado on Dec. 20 postponed. The postponement created a two-week gap for the Sun Devils between their last game at Utah on Dec. 18 and its game against Cal on Jan. 1. It's been 25 years since the Sun Devils have had two weeks or more between games in the months of December (Dec. 20, 1995 vs. South Carolina in a game played in Alaska) and January (Jan. 4, 1996 vs. Stanford).
NO I IN THIS TEAM
Five different players have led or tied for the team lead in scoring: Taya Hanson (4x), Eboni Walker (3x), Jaddan Simmons (2x), Bre'yanna Sanders (1x), Sydnei Caldwell (1x). Hanson has averaged 14.0 ppg in ASU's last three outings, including a career-high 15 points in ASU's win at Utah (Dec. 18). Hanson has been perfect from the line during that stretch (11-11). In ASU's win over USC (Dec. 4), Simmons became the first ASU freshman to score 20 or more points since Dymond Simon scored 24 in a win over Washington State on Jan. 4, 2007. All four of Simmons' double-figure scoring efforts have come in ASU's last five games.
RANKINGS OF NOTE
As of Dec. 29, ASU is 20th in the nation and fourth in the Pac-12 in scoring defense (53.6 ppg). ASU is also ranked in the top third of the Pac-12 in FT percentage (second/72.0) and offensive rebounds per game (fourth/15.4 rpg). Individually within the conference, Walker is seventh in the Pac-12 in FT percentage (78.6), eighth in rebounding (7.1 rpg) and 10th in offensive rebounds (2.8 rpg); Simmons is eighth in FT percentage (78.0).
CAST OF CONTRIBUTORS APLENTY
• Hanson (11.8 ppg) currently leads ASU in scoring (11.8 ppg), 3-pointers (12), steals (1.5 spg) and FT percentage (84.2) and is second in rebounding (4.6 rpg). She matched her career high in scoring coming into the 2020-21 season (14 points) twice – vs. SFA (Nov. 25) and at Arizona (Dec. 10) – before surpassing it with 15 points in ASU's win at Utah (Dec. 18). She has pulled down six or more rebounds five times this season, including a career-high seven boards at Arizona (Dec. 10).
• Walker leads the team in field goal percentage (50.9) and rebounding (7.4 rpg) and is second in steals (1.4 spg) and free throw percentage (78.6). Walker averaged a double-double (12.5 ppg, 12.5 rpg) in ASU's first two contests vs. Stephen F. Austin and VCU. She scored a career-high 14 points in ASU's win over San Diego (Dec. 13) and has pulled down nine or more rebounds four times this season.
• Freshmen Jaddan Simmons and Katelyn Levings have started every game. Simmons became the first Sun Devil point guard to start a season opener as a freshman since 2016. Currently second on the team in scoring (10.4 ppg), Simmons has only eight turnovers this season which is equal to one turnover every 28.9 minutes of play. 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). She led ASU in scoring again with 16 points in its win over San Diego (Dec. 13). One game later, Simmons scored nine of her 12 points in the fourth quarter of ASU's win at Utah (Dec. 18). Levings is averaging 6.5 ppg (fourth on the team) and 4.5 rpg (third on the team) while logging 23.0 minutes per game.
• Senior Bre'yanna Sanders had a recent three-game stretch – Saint Mary's, USC, UCLA – in which she averaged 6.7 ppg and 4.0 rpg, while knocking down 78 percent of her shots. Sanders had a career-high nine points vs. 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). Sanders is currently leads the team in 3-point FG percentage (62.5/5-8) and is second in FG percentage (45.5).
• Sydnei Caldwell has been ASU's top performer off the bench. The sophomore guard leads ASU's reserves in scoring (5.6 ppg) & steals (1.3 spg/third on the team). Caldwell scored a career-high 12 points in ASU's win over USD (Dec. 13).
FINDING A WAY TO GET IT DONE
The Sun Devils had to show their toughness in the second half in five of their seven wins.
• In the season opener against SFA (Nov. 25), 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 (Nov. 27), the Sun Devils held a 33-32 lead with 8:34 remaining and outscored the Rams 16-8 the remainder of the final quarter.
• In their Pac-12 opener vs. USC (Dec. 4), 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.
• Against San Diego (Dec. 13), ASU came back from a 10-point deficit in the first half and led the Toreros by two late in the third quarter. ASU followed with an 8-0 run and USD never got closer than five points the rest of the game.
• In their first road win of the season at Utah (Dec. 18), ASU came back from a 12-point deficit in the first half and eventually took the lead in the third quarter. After the Utes got within two points with 4:21 remaining, the Sun Devils dug in defensively and did not allow the Utah to score for nearly four minutes as the Utes got no closer than four points the rest of the way.
ASU's most recent starting lineup – Simmons (eight starts), junior Jamie Loera (three starts), Hanson (20 starts), Levings (eight starts) and Walker (seven starts) – have a grand total of 46 starts between them. Outside of Hanson, ASU's other four starters have an average of 6.5 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. Starting junior guard Iris Mbulito was lost to injury in the first half of ASU's game vs. UCLA (Dec. 6). She has yet to return to action.