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After nearly three-week hiatus, @SunDevilWBB returns to action on Friday vs. Colorado

Jan 21, 2021

Game Program | Game Notes PDF

WHAT: Sun Devil WBB (7-3, 3-3 Pac-12) vs. Colorado (6-6, 4-5 Pac-12)
WHEN: Friday at 3 p.m. MST
WHERE: Desert Financial Arena • Tempe, Ariz.
LIVE STATS: Click here

After having its last four games postponed due to COVID-19 protocols, the Arizona State women's basketball team (7-3, 3-3 Pac-12) returns to action on Friday (3 p.m. MST) for the first time in nearly three weeks when it hosts Colorado (6-6, 4-5) at Desert Financial Arena. Friday's contest should be the second meeting of the year between the Sun Devils and Buffaloes, however, their first meeting scheduled for Dec. 20, 2020, was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols. The Buffaloes are coming off a 77-72 OT win over top-ranked Stanford on Sunday.
Although their last outing – a 68-60 loss to then top-ranked Stanford – did not produce the desired outcome, ASU – under the circumstances: missing starter Eboni Walker and one of top bench contributors in Bre'yanna Sanders – came through with one of its best performances of the season following a shaky start. After falling behind by as many as 17 points, the Sun Devils fought back – getting within four points – before coming up short. ASU held the Cardinal nearly 20 points below its season average and became (at the time) the only Stanford opponent to fall by single digits as the Cardinal came into the game with an average victory margin of 36.9 points per game. Freshman guard Jaddan Simmons (16 points) and sophomore guard Taya Hanson (15 points), combined for 31 points for the Sun Devils, who outscored Stanford 56-49 over the final three quarters after being outscored 19-4 in the first quarter. On the defensive end, ASU held Stanford to what at the time was the Cardinal's second-lowest point total (68), its fewest 3-pointers (four) and lowest 3-point FG percentage (21.1) and forced an opponent-high 17 turnovers. The game against Stanford was the second straight in which the Sun Devils started three freshmen – Simmons, Katelyn Levings and Maggie Besselink (second career start). After not playing since Dec. 6, junior guard Iris Mbulito returned against Stanford but was limited in a reserve role. 
Led by Simmons' 20 points, ASU started Pac-12 play with a 63-58 win over USC 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. ASU then concluded its 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 26 seconds. 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 the ensuing four without Mbulito, who left the game in the first half of the UCLA contest due to injury.
After the loss to Arizona, the Sun Devils captured wins in their next two contests: 56-48 at Utah (Dec. 18) and 56-53 vs. Cal (Jan. 1). Hanson tied a single-game school record with seven 3-pointers in the win over Cal.  
Friday's game vs. Colorado can be seen via ASU Live Stream. It can also be heard on KAZG 1440 AM. 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.
The Sun Devils have won 14 of the last 16 meetings, including the last 12 in a row. The Sun Devils won the only meeting of the 2019-20 season 65-59 in Boulder. Of the 65 points that were scored in the win, only three were scored by non-injured players on the current roster: Eboni Walker (three points). ASU claimed three wins over Colorado in 2018-19. In addition to sweeping the season series– 76-70 in Boulder and 66-49 in Tempe – the Sun Devils also claimed a win over the Buffaloes in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament (66-49)... Former Sun Devil Alex Earl (2009-12) is an assistant coach on Colorado's staff.                        
For its contest against Cal on Jan. 1, ASU used its fourth different starting lineup in a season that at the time was 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, the start against Cal was the first of her career.
Between the holidays and final exams, it has not been an unusual occurrence in the past to have anywhere between 7-10 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 had been 25 years since the Sun Devils 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). 
Life in the COVID-19 era forced the Sun Devils into an even longer break in the month of January. Two days after their most recent contest vs. Stanford (Jan. 3), the Sun Devils learned they would not be able to play in either of their games the following week (at Washington State on Jan. 8 and at Washington on Jan. 10) due to COVID-19. It would also force the postponement of their games the following week vs. Oregon State (Jan. 15) and vs. Oregon (Jan. 17). When the Sun Devils take the court against Colorado on Jan. 22, they will be competing for the first time in 19 days and for only the third time since their game at Utah on Dec. 18, a span of 35 days.                                  
Five different players have led or tied for the team lead in scoring: Taya Hanson (5x), Eboni Walker (3x), Jaddan Simmons (3x), Bre'yanna Sanders (1x), Sydnei Caldwell (1x). Hanson has averaged 15.6 ppg in ASU's last five outings, including a career-high 21 points in ASU's win over Cal (Jan. 1), a contest in which she tied the single-game school record with seven triples. Hanson has been nearly perfect from the line during that stretch (14-15). 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 five of Simmons' double-figure scoring efforts have come in ASU's last seven games.
As of Jan. 20, ASU is 18th in the nation and tied for first in the Pac-12 in scoring defense (55.0 ppg). ASU is third in the Pac-12 in both 3-point FG pct. defense (28.6) and offensive rebounds per game (15.3 rpg). Individually within the conference, Walker is tied for sixth in offensive rebounds (2.8 rpg), seventh in rebounding (7.1 rpg) and ninth in FT percentage (78.6); Simmons is seventh in FT percentage (79.2); Hanson is tied for sixth in 3-pointers per game (2.1), 11th in scoring (13.0 ppg) and 13th in steals (1.6 spg) and Katelyn Levings is eighth in offensive rebounds (2.7 rpg).
• Hanson (12.8 ppg) currently leads ASU in scoring (13.0 ppg), 3-pointers (21), steals (1.6 spg) and FT percentage (82.6) and is fourth in rebounding (4.3 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). On January 12, Hanson was named Canada Basketball's Player of the Week for December 28, 2020 – January 3, 2021 for her performances vs. Cal (Jan. 1) and Stanford (Jan. 3). Over the last five games, Hanson has averaged 15.6 ppg and has connected on 91 percent of her free throws (14-15). During that stretch she has led the team in steals (1.6 spg) and 3-pointers (14), is second in assists (2.2 apg) and is tied for third in rebounding (5.0 rpg).
• Walker leads the team in field goal percentage (50.9) and rebounding (7.1 rpg) and is second in steals (1.4 spg) and third in 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. Fellow freshman Maggie Besselink has also played a prominent role after missing the first four games of the season due to injury. 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 (10.8 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 6.4 ppg (fourth on the team), 4.8 rpg (third on the team) and 2.7 offensive rebounds per game (second on the team) while logging 23.7 minutes per game. Besselink has started ASU's last two games and is currently second on the team in rebounding (6.0 rpg).  
• Senior Bre'yanna Sanders had a 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 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 (5.3 ppg) & steals (1.1 spg/third on the team). Caldwell scored a career-high 12 points in ASU's win over USD (Dec. 13).
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.
ASU's most recent starting lineup –  Simmons (10 starts), junior Jamie Loera (five starts), Hanson (22 starts), Levings (10 starts) and Besselink (two starts) – has a grand total of 49 starts between them. Outside of Hanson, ASU's other four starters have an average of 5.4 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 missed ASU's next four games before returning in a reserve role vs. Stanford (Jan. 3). Eboni Walker was not available for ASU's contests vs. Cal (Jan. 1) and Stanford (Jan. 3).
Including its 4-0 record this season, ASU is now 72-13 (.847) in non-conference play since 2013. The last time the ASU played as few as four non-conference games – as was the case in 2020 – was in 1976 when it also had four competitions out of conference. That season, 13 of its 17 contests were against opponents from the Intermountain Conference.
ASU is 98-22 (.817) in home games the last eight seasons. ASU has won its last 29 home games vs. non-conference opponents in Desert Financial Arena.
ASU has 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. Last month, 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. ASU was also without freshman standout Jaddan Simmons for the last 26 seconds of the game. Most recently, the Sun Devils nearly rallied from another 17-point deficit against then-top-ranked Stanford on Jan. 3. ASU got within four points before eventually falling to the Cardinal 68-60. Defensively, the Sun Devils, who were without Eboni Walker and Bre'yanna Sanders, held Stanford to its then second-lowest point total (68), its fewest 3-pointers (four) and lowest 3-point FG percentage (21.1) and forced an opponent-high 17 turnovers.
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 led 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). 
The Sun Devils returned 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). Hanson is the leader of among returners with 31 triples last season. Unfortunately for the Sun Devils, it was announced on Nov. 30 that Van Hyfte would miss the remainder of the season due to injury.
A 2018-19 Pac-12 All-Freshman Honorable Mention selection, 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 came into the season with 61 games of experience. 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.
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
Burton-Oliver, ranked No. 12 at her position by, 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, 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, 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, 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). 
• ASU has allowed an average of only 57.3 ppg since the start of the 2014-15 season (a span of 210 games). It has held the opposition to 50 or less points 63 times during that stretch (including 10 times the last two seasons). The Sun Devils are 62-1 in those contests (only loss came vs. Cal 50-49 on Feb. 8, 2015).  
• ASU has allowed 13 or fewer points in a quarter 20 times this season. 
• ASU has averaged 16.1 points per game off turnovers this season.
• On Jan. 3, the Sun Devils, who were without Eboni Walker and Bre'yanna Sanders, held then-top-ranked Stanford to what at the time was the Cardinal's second-lowest point total (68), its fewest 3-pointers (four) and lowest 3-point FG percentage (21.1) and forced an opponent-high 17 turnovers.
• 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. 
• 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.
The 2020-21 Sun Devils already have three double-digit comeback wins to their credit, erasing a 10-point, first-half deficit vs. San Diego (Dec. 13) a 12-point, first-half deficit at Utah (Dec. 18) and an 11-point, second-half deficit vs. Cal (Jan. 1). In ASU's second Pac-12 game on Dec. 6, the Sun Devils fell behind to then-No. 9 UCLA by 17 points and fought back to take the lead in the fourth quarter before eventually coming up short of the upset in a 63-59 decision. The Sun Devils nearly rallied from another 17-point deficit against then-top-ranked Stanford on Jan. 3. ASU got within four points before eventually falling to the Cardinal 68-60. Last season, ASU came back from a double-digit deficit to win three times: -12 vs. BYU, -13  vs. No. 2 Oregon, -10 at Washington State. In 2019, ASU made its biggest comeback in school history when it scored 20 straight points to end the game and erase an 18-point deficit vs. Utah. 
• After finishing with a 20-11 record, ASU extended its school record for consecutive 20-win seasons to seven. It was preparing to make its school record seventh straight trip to NCAAs before the cancellation of the season was announced on Mar. 12 due to Covid-19. 
• 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.
• In 2020 ASU had seven players named to the Pac-12's inaugural Academic Winter Honor Roll: Taya Hanson, Jamie Loera, Reili Richardson, Jamie Ruden, Kiara Russell, Robbi Ryan and Jayde Van Hyfte. ASU was also one of three schools that was represented by both its men's and women's basketball programs in the first ever 2020 Bracket for Brains and Diversity study for the Projected 2020 NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Basketball Tournaments. The study was conducted by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES). 
• A league-high and school-record-tying eight Sun Devil WBB players were named to the Pac-12 Women's Basketball All-Academic teams in 2018. The eight awards tied the school record for most student-athletes on the Pac-12's All-Academic Team. The 2006-07 team also had eight (two on first team, one on second team and five honorable mention).
• In 2017 ASU finished among the nation's best in combined team GPA. With a final team GPA of 3.672 for the 2016-17 academic year the Sun Devils finished fifth in the nation (the highest ranking in program history) among Division I institutions in the WBCA's annual Academic Top 25.