Sun Devil WBB opens play at the Cancun Challenge on Turkey Day
THE GAME: Sun Devil WBB (2-2) vs. Houston (2-2)
WHEN: Thursday at 11:30 am MST/1:30 pm EST
WHERE: Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya • Cancun, Mexico
LISTEN: KDUS 1060 AM
LIVE STATS: Click here
The Sun Devil women's basketball team (2-2) will play three games in three days at the annual Cancun Challenge. ASU will commence play at this week's event with a Thanksgiving Day game vs. Houston (11:30 am MST/1:30 pm EST). The Sun Devils will then play current No. 6 Baylor on Friday (9 am MST/11 am EST) and Fordham on Saturday (9 am MST/11 am EST).
ASU's games at the Cancun Challenge can be seen via live stream for a fee on FloHoops.com. All three games can also be heard on KDUS AM 1060. Pregame coverage will start 30 minutes before each game. Veteran broadcaster and the state of Arizona's 2010 & 2019 Broadcaster of the Year Jeff Munn is in his 18th season as the voice of ASU women's basketball.
STATE OF PLAY
• The Sun Devils are coming off a performance in which they hit 13 triples – one short of tying the school record – in their 82-53 win over Marist on Sunday. Ten of ASU's 3-pointers came during a first half in which it shot a blistering 59 percent from beyond the arc on its way to a 48-27 halftime advantage. Four different Sun Devils – Jade Loville (5-6), Katelyn Levings (2-4), Sydney Erikstrup (2-4) and Mael Gilles (2-4) – connected multiple times from downtown. The quartet combined to knock down (11-18) 61 percent of its 3-pointers in helping the Sun Devils accumulate their highest point total since an 83-51 win over Army on November 10, 2019.
• Sunday's win gave ASU some momentum heading into this week's games. Despite a strong defensive effort at BYU on Nov. 17, the Sun Devils were not able to overcome a 30-percent shooting performance in a 55-44 road loss to the Cougars.
• ASU opened the 2021-22 season splitting its first two contests, defeating Northern Colorado 71-41 (Nov. 9) before falling to Minnesota 66-59 in OT (Nov. 12). Loville (16.5 ppg), a transfer from Boise State, and Taya Hanson (12.0 ppg) both averaged double figures in scoring in the two games. Another newcomer, Mael Gilles (transfer from Rutgers) averaged 7.0 ppg, 5.0 rebs, 4.0 blocks and 3.0 steals. Maggie Besselink had a career-high 15 rebounds vs. Minnesota.
• ASU's 71-point performance and shooting percentage of 47.2 vs. Northern Colorado represented its highest numbers in both categories since Feb. 28, 2020 when it shot 47.3 percent in a 77-54 win vs Cal. ASU surpassed that scoring total in its 82-53 win over Marist
• Jayde Van Hyfte, a full-time starter in 2020, who played only one game in 2020-21, is expected to return soon. The same goes for junior college transfer Isadora Sousa who has yet to play this season. ASU has also been without one of its top threats from long range, Ayzhiana Basallo, who has missed the last two games after playing in ASU's first two contests.
• Currently with 116 career 3-pointers, senior Taya Hanson needs one triple to move into a tie for eighth place (117/Reili Richardson/2017-20 and Amanda Levens/2000-02) on ASU's all-time career list.
• ASU enters this week's contests among the Top 25 team in the nation in turnover margin (23rd/8.5) and blocked shots per game (25th/6.0). Jade Loville is 38th in the nation in 3-point FG pct. (52.6).
• The Sun Devils are in the middle of a stretch in which they are playing six of nine games away from Desert Financial Arena.
ASU AT THE CANCUN CHALLENGE
This will be ASU's fifth appearance (2005, 2007, 2013, 2017) at the Cancun Challenge. The Sun Devils won all three of their games in 2013, defeating Illinois 86-65, No. 11 North Carolina 94-81 in OT and Arkansas State 69-66. Adrianne Thomas was named the MVP in ASU's field of the Cancun Challenge after averaging 12.0 points, 4.7 assists and 4.0 rebounds in the three games. In ASU's upset of UNC, Thomas scored a career-high 23 points and tied her career high with eight assists. Her offensive rebound and putback at the buzzer sent the game against UNC to overtime where the Sun Devils outscored the Tar Heels 17-4 in the extra frame.
SERIES NOTES VERSUS THE COMPETITION
After never meeting prior to the year 2021, this will be the second contest between ASU and Houston in just over eight months. The Cougars claimed a 50-48 win over the Sun Devils in last season's WNIT. Katelyn Levings scored a career-high 10 points to lead ASU.
The Sun Devils will be looking for their first win over Baylor in what will be the fourth all-time meeting between the two teams. In 2018, the Sun Devils nearly upset the fourth-ranked Bears in ASU's first ever 'Showdown on the Rez.' The game, which was contested at the BeeHoldzil Fighting Scouts Events Center in Fort Defiance, Ariz., was won by Baylor, 65-59.
ASU was victorious in its only prior meeting vs. Fordham, 64-40 in 2001.
SETTING THE SCENE FOR 2021-22
Entering her 25th season leading the Maroon and Gold, head coach Charli Turner Thorne welcomes back several talented returners, including veteran players G Taya Hanson (set school record for most 3-pointers per game last season) and F Jayde Van Hyfte (one of the team's top post performers who was forced to miss last season due to injury).
After showing several flashes of brilliance during its first year in Tempe, Turner Thorne's Top Five recruiting class – including G Jaddan Simmons (first Sun Devil freshman to average double figures in scoring since 2003) and posts Maggie Besselink (team's top rebounder last season) and Katelyn Levings (played in and started all but two games last season) – is poised to have an even bigger impact this season.
Add to that a quartet of outstanding transfers – seasoned Big Ten standout Mael Gilles, 2021 All-Mountain West performer Jade Loville, 2020 Mountain West Conference Newcomer of the Year Ayzhiana Basallo and two-time NJCCA All-American Isadora Sousa. Combining the talents of key returners with the infusion of new talent, Turner Thorne and the Sun Devils will look to feature a high-tempo offense to go with the signature, hard-nosed, pressuring defenses that Turner Thorne's teams have come to be known for over the years.
WELCOME TO TEMPE
The Sun Devils added a quartet of talented and experienced transfers in the offseason who head coach Charli Turner Thorne feels has the potential to have a major impact this season.
Three of the four transferred to ASU in April with 2020 Mountain West Conference Newcomer of the Year Ayzhiana Basallo being the first to officially join the program. Basallo, a 5-5 guard who will have two years of eligibility, arrived at ASU from San Jose State where she earned her degree in communication earlier this season.
In her only full season at San Jose State – did not play in 2018-19 due to NCAA transfer rules and SJSU's 2020-21 season was canceled after only four games due to COVID-19 – Basallo earned the Mountain West Conference's Newcomer of the Year award for a season in which she averaged a team-high 18.5 points per game while shooting 44.7 percent from the field, 45.4 percent from beyond the arc (school single-season record) and 92.5 percent at the free throw line (school single-season record).
Jade Loville, a 5-10 wing who earned All-Mountain West honors last season, joined the Sun Devils from Boise State. In 2020-21, Loville, who has two years of eligibility, scored in double figures 19 times last season, setting the school's single-game scoring record with 40 points at UNLV on Feb. 10, 2021. She scored 20 or more points nine times and was named the Mountain West Player of the Week after averaging 26.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game in a two-game sweep of San Jose State (Dec. 31 and Jan. 2).
A 6-1 forward who originally came up through Canada's youth national teams Mael Gilles is using her fifth year of eligibility to play for the Sun Devils after spending the last four seasons with Rutgers (started 55 of 101 career games). Last season, Gilles averaged 8.1 points and 4.3 rebounds in helping the Scarlet Knights earn their highest seed in the NCAA Tournament since 2012. A starter in all 18 games she played in last season, Gilles notched six double-figure scoring efforts, including a season-high 16 points on two occasions.
In early June, ASU welcomed Isadora Sousa, a six-foot guard who played the last two seasons at Chipola College in Marianna, Fla. A native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sousa has twice been named an NJCCA All-American – third team in 2020 and second team in 2021 – by World Exposure Report. She is coming off a campaign in which she earned FCSAA/NJCAA VIII All-State, All-Panhandle Conference first-team and FCSAA/NJCAA VIII All-Tournament Team honors in helping lead Chipola to its seventh FCSAA Championship and an appearance in the NJCAA Tournament semifinals.
One of the biggest challenges ASU faced last season was overcoming its youth/inexperience as out of 120 possible starts, 95 were made by freshmen (62) or upperclassmen who were first-year starters (33). In addition to the talent they will bring, just as important is the experience as Gilles (56/104), Loville (87/23) and Basallo (60/33) brought a combined 224 games of NCAA D1 playing experience, including 139 starts, coming into the 2021-22 season.
As a freshman last season, point guard Jaddan Simmons proved she has a bright future ahead. In 2020-21, Simmons averaged 10.8 ppg, becoming the first ASU freshman to average double figures in scoring since Jill Noe in 2003. 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. Simmons would go on to be named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week after scoring 11 of her 15 points over the last 9:20 (last 4:20 of regulation and 5:00 of OT) in ASU's 66-64 upset of then-No. 9 Arizona.
VAN HYFTE EXPECTED TO RETURN AFTER HAVING A PREMATURE END TO 2020-21 SEASON
Post Jayde Van Hyfte was the team's most experienced player at the beginning of last season after starting every game in 2019-20. Unfortunately for Van Hyfte, an early injury forced her to miss all but one game last season. In 2019-20, Van Hyfte led the team in offensive rebounds (2.9 rpg/tied for fourth in the Pac-12), was second in rebounds (5.0 rpg) and fourth in FG pct. (44.0). She grabbed 10 or more rebounds 3 times and more than half (89) of her 154 rebounds came on the offensive end.
NO SUBSTITUTE FOR EXPERIENCE
With Van Hyfte out last season, the Sun Devils relied on a pair of freshman post players – Maggie Besselink and Katelyn Levings – who gained a valuable season as starters. After missing the first four games of the season due to injury, Besselink played a prominent role with starting assignments in 14 of the 18 games she played in. The team leader in last season rebounding (5.7 rpg/16th in the Pac-12), Besselink grabbed seven or more rebounds seven times, including a career-high 13 rebounds (tying the single-game high by a Sun Devil in 2020-21) in ASU's upset of then-No. 9 Arizona on Feb. 28. She was also second on the team in offensive rebounds (2.3 rpg/10th in the Pac-12). She posted her first career double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds) in ASU's Pac-12 Tournament contest vs. USC (Mar. 3) and knocked down 50 percent of her shots over the last eight games of the season.
Levings started all 22 games she was available to play and finished third on the team in offensive rebounds (2.0 rpg) and fourth in both scoring (5.7 ppg) and rebounding (4.2 rpg). She scored eight or more points six times, including a season-high 10 points in ASU's WNIT contest vs. Houston (Mar. 22). She also grabbed five or more rebounds seven times and had a season-high four steals in ASU's WNIT opener vs. Rice (Mar. 20).
TOUCH FOR TRIPLES
A starter in 40 of 92 career games, last season Taya Hanson earned All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention and Pac-12 All-Defense notice in 2021 for a season in which she scored in double figures 18 times, including career-high 21 points vs. Cal (Jan. 1), a contest in which she tied the single-game school record with seven triples. In 2020-21, Hanson led ASU in scoring (12.6 ppg), 3-pointers (62), steals (1.4 spg) and free throw percentage (84.8), was third in rebounding (4.3 rpg) and fourth in assists (1.4 apg). She averaged 2.58 3-pointers per game, the most ever by a Sun Devil in a season. The team's active career leader in 3-pointers (116), Hanson needs one triple to move into a tie for eighth place (117/Reili Richardson/2017-20 and Amanda Levens/2000-02) on ASU's all-time career list.
YVONNE SANCHEZ JOINS CHARLI TURNER THORNE'S COACHING STAFF
Last April Yvonne Sanchez – a coach with more than 30 years of experience both as an assistant and head coach – joined Charli Turner Thorne's staff as assistant coach at ASU. Sanchez came to Tempe from the University of Michigan where she spent the last three seasons as assistant coach. While in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines won nearly 70 percent of their games and earned a pair of bids to the NCAA Tournament (Michigan would likely have also been a 2020 NCAA Tournament participant had the postseason not been canceled due to the pandemic). In 2021, the Wolverines earned their highest NCAA Tournament seed ever (No. 6) and reached the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history with wins over No. 11 seed Florida Gulf Coast and No. 3 seed Tennessee. Michigan fell just short of its first Elite Eight after being edged by No. 2 seed Baylor in overtime, 78-75.
Sanchez was on staff at the University of New Mexico from 2000-2016, spending the last five seasons of her tenure as head coach. She amassed 77 victories as head coach and was named the 2014-15 Mountain West Coach of the Year after winning a school-record 14 conference games. In her first season as head coach, the Lobos reached the Mountain West Conference championship game. She would duplicate the feat in 2015 when the Lobos went 21-13. During her time as an assistant coach (2000-08) and associate head coach (2008-11), the Lobos won two Mountain West regular-season titles and five conference tournament crowns and made seven NCAA Tournament appearances. New Mexico won 239 games from 2000-2011, highlighted by the program's only NCAA Sweet 16 appearance, in 2003.
DOMINANT DEVIL DEFENSE
• ASU has allowed an average of only 57.1 ppg since the start of the 2014-15 season (a span of 228 games). It has held the opposition to 50 or less points 70 times during that stretch. The Sun Devils are 66-4 in those contests.
• ASU has allowed 13 or fewer points in a quarter 10 times this season.
• 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.
NEWS FROM SIGNING DAY
On Nov. 10, 2021, Charli Turner Thorne announced local superstar Trayanna Crisp, rated a four-star and Top 100 student-athlete by ESPN.com, signed a national letter of intent to study and play basketball at Arizona State.
"We are overjoyed to announce the addition of Tray Crisp to our Sun Devil women's basketball family," Turner Thorne said. "I have no doubt anyone who follows high school basketball in the Valley of the Sun is familiar with Tray's many successes and phenomenal skills and athleticism. She is a strong, savvy combo guard who is going to be outstanding on both sides of the ball. She can create for herself and others and has a great feel for the game."
A five-foot-eight combo guard who is rated No. 20 in the nation at her position by ESPN.com, Crisp will continue to play in front of the hometown fans that witnessed her win state championships as a freshman and sophomore while playing for Goodyear Millennium High School. A first-team all-region selection, most recently Crisp averaged 14.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists in helping lead PHH Prep to the Grind Session girls basketball world championship. As a sophomore, Crisp, who has returned to Millennium for her senior season, was recognized as the 5A offensive player of the year for per-game contributions of 14.8 points, 3.6 steals, 3.0 assists 4.2 rebounds while shooting 49 percent from the field.
Crisp's impact with Millennium was as sudden as it was superb as she contributed 9.7 points, 2.6 assists and 2.4 steals per game as a freshman in helping Millennium win the first of consecutive state titles.
"We first met Tray as an eighth grader at our annual team camp and got to know her even better when she attended our Sun Devil Elite Camp," Turner Thorne said. "Not only did we see a fierce competitor and skilled player, but also a young woman of high character. While there are a lot of talented high school players across the country, Tray truly loves the game and that in and of itself will help separate her at the highest level."