Sun Devil WBB looks for weekend split at USC on Sunday
WHAT: Sun Devil WBB (8-5, 4-5 Pac-12) at USC (6-7, 4-6 Pac-12)
WHEN: Sunday at 1 p.m. PST/2 p.m. MST
WHERE: Galen Center • Los Angeles
WATCH: USC Live Stream
RADIO: KDUS AM 1060
LIVE STATS: Click here
The Arizona State women's basketball team will conclude its road trip to Los Angeles on Sunday (1 p.m. PST/2 p.m. MST) when it faces USC. ASU will be looking to come away with a split for the weekend after being edged by No. 5 UCLA 60-57 on Friday.
Sunday's game can be seen on be seen via USC Live Stream. It can also be heard on KDUS 1060 AM. Coverage will start at 1:30 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. He will be joined by former ASUhead coach Maura McHugh.
STATE OF PLAY
Friday's game at UCLA was the first time this season head coach Charli Turner Thorne had all players with non-season-ending injuries available to play. Playing in just their fifth contest in 42 days, the Sun Devils nearly matched their all-time greatest comeback against the nation's fifth-ranked team. Down by 18, the Sun Devils came back to take the lead, but came up short of completing the upset in a 60-57 decision. The quartet of Taya Hanson (12 points), Jaddan Simmons (nine points), Gabriela Bosquez (eight points) and Imogen Greenslade (seven points) combined for 36 points. Greenslade (career-high nine rebounds), Iris Mbulito (five points, career-high-tying seven rebounds) and Maggie Besselink (six rebounds) helped the Sun Devils outrebound the Bruins 41-37.
FIVE THINGS TO KNOW
1. Four of ASU's five losses have been to Top 10 teams. Three of those four losses were by an average of 5.0 points: 63-59 vs. then-No. 9 UCLA (Dec. 6), 68-60 vs. then-No. 1 Stanford (Jan. 3) and 60-57 at No. 5 UCLA (Jan. 29).
2. After playing eight games in 24 days – will no cancellations or postponements – to start the season (Nov. 25 - Dec. 18), the Sun Devils have since played five games in 43 days. During that stretch, the Sun Devils have had five postponements and two long periods of inactivity consisting of 14 days and 19 days between games.
3. ASU's game at UCLA on Jan. 29 was the first time this season the Sun Devils had all of their active players available to play. ASU's roster was most affected by COVID-19 protocol in its contests vs. Colorado (Jan. 22) and vs. Utah (Jan. 24). Missing three important contributors – Iris Mbulito, Katelyn Levings and Maggie Besselink – the Sun Devils were able to do just enough to get by a Colorado team coming off an upset of top-ranked Stanford, defeating the Buffaloes 51-47. Two days later, Utah was able to take advantage of ASU's depleted roster in a 65-51 upset of the Sun Devils.
4. Out of 65 starts, 51 have been made by freshmen (29)/first-year starters (22).
5. As of Jan. 30, ASU is 2nd in Pac-12/21st in the nation in scoring defense (55.5 ppg).
SERIES NOTES VERSUS USC
• ASU has prevailed in nine of the last 12 meetings with seven of those contests coming down to the final minute or OT.
• In 2015 ASU had to go to double OT before coming away with a 76-73 win in Los Angeles. In 2016 Sophie Brunner converted a 3-point play with 1.4 secs remaining to lift ASU to a 69-68 win in Tempe. In the rematch in Los Angeles, ASU denied USC's attempts to tie the score twice in the final 32 secs in ASU's 50-45 win.
• The two teams split in 2017 with each squad holding serve on its home floor: USC 65-50 in LA/ASU 69-62 in Tempe. USC won the only meeting in 2018, 77-62 win in LA.
• ASU swept the series last season, winning 63-54 in Los Angels and 76-75 (3OT) in Tempe. The latter win over USC was the 500th career victory for Sun Devil head coach Charli Turner Thorne.
Simmons scored 14 of her game- and career-high 20 points in the second half to help lead ASU to a 63-58 win over USC in the Pac-12 opener for both teams on Dec. 4.
Junior Taya Hanson, sophomore Eboni Walker and freshman Katelyn Levings added nine points apiece for the Sun Devils, who were down by as many as eight in the first quarter before using a 29-6 run to take a 15-point lead four minutes into the third quarter. ASU then had to stave off a determined USC squad that used a 14-0 run to tie the game two minutes into the fourth quarter. Clinging to a two-point lead, the Sun Devils kept the Trojans from scoring over the last three-plus minutes of the game. Simmons hit three free throws in the final 12 seconds to seal the win.
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 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. 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. ASU was also without Simmons for the game's final 26 seconds. 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.
ASU came through with a gritty effort in a 68-60 loss to then top-ranked Stanford (Jan. 3). Although it did not produce the desired outcome, ASU – given the circumstances of playing without starting post Walker (team leader in FG percentage and rebounding) and one of its top bench contributors in Sanders – came through with one of its best performances of the season. After falling behind by 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 (Stanford came into game with average victory margin of 36.9 ppg). Simmons (16 points) and Hanson (15 points), combined for 31 points for the Sun Devils, who outscored Stanford 56-49 over the final three quarters. 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 pct (21.1) and forced an opponent-high 17 turnovers. The game against Stanford was the second straight in which ASU started three freshmen – Simmons, Levings and Besselink (second career start). After not playing since Dec. 6, junior guard Iris Mbulito returned against Stanford but was limited in a reserve role.
Two days after their 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 protocol. 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 took the court against Colorado on Jan. 22, they were 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.
ASU used a virtuoso defensive performance to come away with a 51-47 win over Colorado on Jan. 22. Hanson (16 points) and Simmons (13 points) combined for 29 points for the Sun Devils. Freshman center Imogen Greenslade became the fourth Sun Devil freshman to start this season as ASU went with its fifth different starting lineup of the season. Greenslade was joined by Simmons, junior Jamie Loera, Hanson and Walker. The Buffaloes, who were coming off an upset of then-No. 1 Stanford, were held more than 20 points below their scoring average. ASU scored 22 points off of Colorado's season-high 25 turnovers, the most by an ASU opponent this season.
ASU's inactivity and key personnel losses caught up to it in 65-51 loss to Utah on Jan. 6. For the Sun Devils, Murphy's law was in full effect for the first three quarters as they made only 21 percent of their shots (both from inside and outside the arc) and had accumulated only 28 points after 30 minutes. During the same span, the Utes connected on 51 percent of their shots, including 44 percent from long distance where they scored 21 of their points in the first three frames to take a 49-28 lead entering the fourth quarter.
NO I IN THIS TEAM
Five different players have led or tied for the team lead in scoring: Hanson (7x), Simmons (4x), Walker (3x), Sanders (1x), Sydnei Caldwell (1x). Hanson averaged 15.7 ppg in the six 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 – prior to ASU's contest vs. Utah on Jan. 24. Hanson was nearly perfect from the line during that stretch (16-17). 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 seven of Simmons' double-figure scoring efforts have come in ASU's last 10 games.
RANKINGS OF NOTE
As of Jan. 30, ASU is 21st in the nation and second in the Pac-12 in scoring defense (55.5 ppg). ASU is also in the top third of the conference in offensive rebounds per game (second/15.1 rpg), free throw percentage (third/71.8) and 3-point FG pct. defense (fourth/29.6). Individually within the conference, Walker is tied for fifth in free throw percentage (80.0,) 12th in rebounds (6.4 rpg) and tied for eighth in offensive rebounds (2.6 rpg); Simmons is seventh in FT percentage (78.8); Hanson is fifth in 3-pointers per game (2.2) and tied for 11th in scoring (12.6 ppg) and Katelyn Levings is tied for eighth in offensive rebounds (2.6 rpg).
CAST OF CONTRIBUTORS APLENTY
• Hanson currently leads ASU in scoring (12.5 ppg), 3-pointers (28), steals (1.5 spg) and FT percentage (86.2) and is fourth in rebounding (4.4 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 six 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).
• Walker leads the team in field goal percentage (47.4) and rebounding (6.4 rpg) and is second in steals (1.3 spg) and free throw percentage (80.0). 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.
• Simmons has started every game and Katelyn Levings has started every game she has been available to play (11 of 13). Fellow freshman 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 (11.0 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 6.2 ppg (fourth on the team), 4.6 rpg (third on the team) and 2.5 offensive rebounds per game (tied for first) while logging 23.5 minutes per game. Besselink has started three 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 (50.0/6-12) and is third in FG percentage (37.9).
• Sydnei Caldwell has been ASU's top performer off the bench. The sophomore guard leads ASU's reserves in scoring (5.2 ppg) & steals (1.2 spg/tied for third on the team). Caldwell scored a career-high 12 points in ASU's win over USD (Dec. 13).
• Junior Jamie Loera is second on the team in 3-pointers (7) and third on the team in assists (1.8 apg).
• Freshman Imogen Greenslade has started two games. She came through will a brilliant outing in ASU's near upset at UCLA (Jan. 29) as she scored seven points and grabbed a team- and career-high nine rebounds.