Game notes for @SunDevilWBB’s WNIT opener vs. Rice
WHAT: WNIT First Round – Sun Devil WBB (11-10, 6-9 Pac-12) vs. Rice (18-4, 12-2 C-USA)
WHEN: Friday at 9 a.m. MST/11 a.m. CDT
WHERE: Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center • Fort Worth, Texas
WATCH: FloHoops.com ($)
RADIO: KAZG 1440 AM
LIVE STATS: Click here
The Sun Devil women's basketball team (11-10, 6-9 Pac-12) opens play in the 2021 Postseason WNIT against Rice (18-4, 12-2 C-USA) on Friday at 11 a.m. CDT/9 a.m. MST at the Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center in Fort Worth, Texas.
All of ASU's WNIT games will be streamed at FloHoops.com (fee-based website). Friday morning's game vs. Rice can also be heard on KAZG 1440 AM. Radio coverage will begin at 8:30 a.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 Sun Devil head coach Maura McHugh.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
• ASU will be making its 20th postseason trip in the last 21 seasons in which a postseason competition has been held. It will also be the program's seventh consecutive postseason appearance in which a postseason competition was held (six consecutive NCAA Tournaments 2014-19, 2021 WNIT).
• This will be ASU's sixth appearance in the WNIT: 2000, 2003, 2004, 2010, 2012, 2021. The Sun Devils have advanced as far as the second round (2003, 2010).
• As of March 14, ASU is 17th in the nation and first in the Pac-12 in offensive rebounds per game (15.5). It is also 42nd in the nation and fourth in the Pac-12 in scoring defense, giving up only 58.3 ppg.
• ASU was 4-5 against teams playing in the NCAA Tournament. It defeated Arizona (No. 3 seed), Washington State (No. 9 seed), SFA (No. 12 seed) and VCU (No. 13 seed). ASU lost both contests (home and away) to the top overall seed Stanford, both games (home and away) to No. 3 seed UCLA and at Arizona. Three of those 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 then-No. 5 UCLA (Jan. 29).
• Junior Taya Hanson (named All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention and Pac-12 All-Defense Honorable Mention earlier this month) is currently among the Pac-12 leaders in 3-pointers per game (first/2.7), scoring (ninth/13.5 ppg) and 3-point field goal percentage (19th/34.9). Hanson's 56 triples are tied for eighth on ASU's all-time list for most 3-pointers in a season. With four more makes from downtown, Hanson will move into a tie for fifth place. Among the top 10 single-season totals in school history, Hanson's 2.7 3-pointers per game are tops on the list.
• Currently averaging 10.8 ppg, freshman point guard Jaddan Simmons (named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week following ASU's Feb. 28 win vs. Arizona) is looking to become the first ASU freshman to average double figures in scoring since Jill Noe in 2002-03. All 12 of Simmons' double-figure scoring efforts have come in ASU's last 18 games. She has also scored nine points three times during that stretch.
• 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 – starters 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.
• Out of 105 starts, 83 have been made by freshmen (53) or upperclassmen who are first-year starters (30).
• Junior guard Gabriela Bosquez will be returning to her home state. A 2018 graduate of Hays High School (Buda, Texas), Bosquez transferred to ASU last year from Blinn College (Brenham, Texas).
SERIES NOTES VERSUS RICE
• This will be the first all-time meeting between the Sun Devils and Owls.
CAST OF CONTRIBUTORS APLENTY
• Hanson currently leads ASU in scoring (13.0 ppg), 3-pointers (56), steals (1.3 spg) and free throw percentage (83.7) and is third in rebounding (4.5 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 eight times this season, including a career-high seven boards at Arizona (Dec. 10) and vs. Washington (Feb. 12). 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). Hanson is knocked down five 3-pointers in each of ASU's last three games and is shooting 46 percent from beyond the arc during that stretch.
• Simmons, who has started every game, became the first ASU point guard to start a season opener as a freshman since 2016. 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 (13-15). Simmons became the first ASU freshman to score 20 or more points since 2007 after accounting for 14 of her game- and career-high 20 points in the second half of ASU's 63-58 win over USC in the Pac-12 opener on Dec. 4. Simmons is currently the team leader in free throws made (87) and attempted (109) and assists (2.6 apg) and is second in scoring (10.8 ppg), FT percentage (79.8) and steals (1.2 spg). She had a career-high seven assists in ASU's win over Cal (Jan. 1). All 12 of Simmons' double-figure scoring efforts have come in ASU's last 18 games. She has also scored nine points three during that stretch. Simmons was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week for her performance in ASU's upset of then-No. 9 Arizona on Feb. 28. She scored 11 of her 15 points over the last 9:20 (last 4:20 of regulation and 5:00 of OT) of the game. Simmons started her scoring spurt with a 3-point play that gave ASU a 52-44 lead with 4:20 remaining in regulation. She accounted for ASU's first seven points in overtime and then hit a free throw that extended ASU's lead to 66-64 with 13 seconds remaining in the extra frame.
• Freshman Katelyn Levings has started every game she has been available to play (19 of 21) and leads the team in offensive rebounds (2.2 rpg) and is fourth on the team in scoring (5.7 ppg) and rebounding (4.2 rpg). She has scored eight or more points five times and has grabbed five or more rebounds seven times.
• After missing the first four games of the season due to injury, freshman Maggie Besselink has also played a prominent role with starting assignments in 11 of the 15 games she has played in. Besselink, who leads the team in rebounding (6.0 rpg), has grabbed seven or more rebounds six times, including a career-high 13 rebounds (tying the single-game high by a Sun Devil this season) in ASU's upset of then-No. 9 Arizona on Feb. 28. She posted her first career double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds) in ASU's Pac-12 Tournament contest vs. USC. Besselink, who leads ASU in rebounding (6.0 rpg), has averaged 8.0 ppg and 6.6 rpg while shooting 52 percent in ASU's last five games.
• Sophomore Eboni Walker leads the team in field goal percentage (43.6), is second on the team in rebounds (5.3) and offensive rebounds (2.1 rpg) and third in scoring (7.4 ppg), steals (1.1 spg) and FT. pct. (75.5). Walker averaged a double-double (12.5 ppg, 12.5 rpg) in ASU's first two contests vs. Stephen F. Austin & VCU. She scored a career-high 14 points vs. San Diego (Dec. 13) and has pulled down nine or more rebounds four times this season.
• Junior Iris Mbulito is second on the team in assists (2.3 apg), posting a season-high four assists five times this season.
• 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 pct. 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, who had eight big points in ASU's upset of then-No. 9 Arizona on Feb. 28, is second on the team in FG pct. (43.1), third in 3-point FG pct. (37.0) and tied for fourth in assists (1.3 apg).
• Sydnei Caldwell has been ASU's top performer off the bench. The sophomore guard leads ASU's reserves in scoring (4.7 ppg) & steals (1.0 spg). 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 (13), is third in assists (1.6 apg) and fifth in steals (0.9 spg). She has scored a season-high eight points twice, most recently in ASU's win over Washington State (Feb. 14).
• Freshman Imogen Greenslade has played in 19 games with two starts. She had a brilliant outing in ASU's near upset at UCLA (Jan. 29) as she scored seven points & grabbed a career-high nine rebounds.
• Freshman Sydney Erikstrup scored five points to help ASU get back into its contest vs. then-No. 1 Stanford after ASU got down 19-4.
• Junior Gabriela Bosquez provided ASU with a big spark at UCLA (Jan. 29) as she came off the bench to score eight straight points after ASU fell behind by 18 points.