Sun Devil WBB hosts No. 1 Stanford on Sunday
WHAT: Sun Devil WBB (7-2, 3-2 Pac-12) vs. No. 1 Stanford (8-0, 5-0 Pac-12)
WHEN: Sunday at 4 p.m. MST
WHERE: Desert Financial Arena • Tempe, Ariz.
TELEVISION: Pac-12 Network/Arizona/Bay Area
RADIO: KDUS AM 1060
LIVE STATS: Click here
Coming off its third consecutive win, the Sun Devil women's basketball (7-2, 3-2 Pac-12) team concludes the first weekend of 2021 on Sunday (4 p.m. MST) when it hosts top-ranked Stanford (8-0, 5-0) at Desert Financial Arena.
On Friday, Taya Hanson tied a school record with seven 3-pointers and for the third time in as many games the Sun Devils rallied from a double-digit deficit (11 points) to defeat California 56-53. ASU started three freshmen – Jaddan Simmons, Katelyn Levings and Maggie Besselink (first career start) – against the Golden Bears. Already missing two starters – junior post Jayde Van Hyfte is out for the season and junior guard Iris Mbulito has not played since ASU's 63-59 loss to then-No. 9 UCLA on Dec. 6 – ASU was also without starting sophomore post Eboni Walker and senior post Bre'yanna Sanders, one of the team's top performers off the bench.
All of Hanson's career-high 21 points came via the long ball as she tied the single-game record also held by former Sun Devils Courtney Ekmark (vs. Arkansas, Dec. 21, 2017), Briann January (at UC Davis, Dec. 3, 2008), Ryneldi Becenti (vs. Washington State, Feb. 13, 1993) and Crystal Cobb (vs. Oregon, Feb. 2, 1991). Levings nearly accounted for a double-double (eight points, game- and career-high eight rebounds) while Simmons added nine points (all in the second half) and added a career-high seven assists. Jamie Loera tied Hanson for the team lead with a career-high three steals. As a team, ASU had a season-high 18 assists. Imogen Greenslade (six rebounds) and Besselink (five rebounds) joined Levings as ASU's top rebounders in helping the Sun Devils come out plus-three on the boards.
It was the second straight game Hanson scored a career high in points after scoring 15 in ASU's 56-48 come-from-behind win at Utah (Dec. 18).
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. Walker led ASU with 12 points while Simmons (10 points) and fellow freshmen Levings (nine points) and Besselink (eight points) combined for 27 points. The game against UCLA was Besselink's first 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 four without 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).
Sunday's game vs. Stanford 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 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 ASU head coach Maura McHugh.
SERIES NOTES VERSUS STANFORD
Stanford has won eight of the last 13 meetings, including the last five in a row. ASU swept the regular season series in 2014-15 (60-57 in Palo Alto/53-52 in Tempe) and 2015-16 (49-31 in Tempe/63-61-OT in Palo Alto). The 60-57 win at Stanford in Jan 2015 was ASU's first over the Cardinal since 2006 and the first at Stanford since 1984. Each team won on its home floor in 2017-18 (ASU 73-66 in Tempe/Stanford 74-50 in the Bay Area) before meeting again in the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament (Stanford 58-46). Stanford claimed both meetings in 2019 (72-65 in Tempe and 71-50) in Palo Alto and the only meeting of 2020, 55-44 in Tempe. The 55 points was the fewest points Stanford scored in 2019-20. As a student-athlete at Stanford, ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne played under current Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer.
In ASU's contest against Cal on Friday, the Sun Devils used their fourth different starting lineup in a season that is only nine games old. The lineup included three freshmen: Jaddan Simmons, Katelyn Levings and Maggie Besselink. For Besselink, who missed the first four contests of the season due to injury, Friday's game was her first career start
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 their 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 (5x), Eboni Walker (3x), Jaddan Simmons (2x), Bre'yanna Sanders (1x), Sydnei Caldwell (1x). Hanson has averaged 15.8 ppg in ASU's last four outings, including a career-high 21 points in ASU's win over Cal, a contest in which she tied the single-game school record with seven triples. 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 six games.
RANKINGS OF NOTE
As of Jan. 2, ASU is 18th in the nation and third in the Pac-12 in scoring defense (53.6 ppg). ASU is third in the Pac-12 in offensive rebounds per game (15.6 rpg). Individually within the conference, Walker is seventh in rebounding (7.1 rpg) and offensive rebounds (2.8 rpg), and ninth in FT percentage (78.6); Simmons is 11th in FT percentage (76.1); Hanson is 10th in 3-pointers per game (2.1) and 15th in scoring (12.8 ppg).
CAST OF CONTRIBUTORS APLENTY
• Hanson (12.8 ppg) currently leads ASU in scoring, 3-pointers (19), steals (1.7 spg) and FT percentage (84.2) and is fourth 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 surpassed it again (21 points) in ASU's win over Cal, a contest in which she tied the single-game school record with seven triples 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 (7.1 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 (10.2 ppg), Simmons had a career-high seven assists in ASU's win over Cal (Jan.1). 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 6.7 ppg (fourth on the team) and 4.9 rpg (third on the team) while logging 23.7 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 (5.2 ppg) & steals (1.1 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 six of their eight 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.
• Against Cal (Jan. 1), the Sun Devils outscored the Bears 37-25 in the second half as they overcame an 11-point deficit in the third quarter of their 56-53 win. Taya Hanson led the way as she tied a school record with seven 3-pointers.