Sun Devil WBB plays at San Diego on Saturday
THE GAME: Sun Devil WBB (5-5) at San Diego (7-2)
WHEN: Saturday at 1 p.m. PST/2 p.m. MST
WHERE: Jenny Craig Pavilion • San Diego, Calif.
LISTEN: 1440 AM KAZG
LIVE STATS: Click here
The Sun Devil women's basketball team (5-5) will play the first of two games in four days before the holiday break when it plays at San Diego (7-2) on Saturday (1 p.m. PST/2 p.m. MST). After Saturday's game, ASU will return to Desert Financial Arena to host UC Irvine on Tuesday (12 p.m. MST). Tuesday's game will represent the midpoint of a stretch in which the Sun Devils are playing four of five games away from home. After the holidays, the Sun Devils will go back on the road for the opening weekend of Pac-12 play at UCLA (Dec. 31) and at USC (Jan. 2).
Saturday's game at San Diego can be seen via live stream at WCCSports.com. It can also be heard on KAZG 1440 AM. Pregame 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 18th season as the voice of ASU women's basketball.
SERIES NOTES VERSUS SAN DIEGO
The Sun Devils have won eight of the 10 contests in the series that dates back to 1981. ASU was victorious in the most recent meeting, 64-55 last December. Jaddan Simmons (16 points) and Taya Hanson (13 points) combined for 29 points in the win. Sophomore Sydney Erikstrup's twin sister, Laura, plays for San Diego.
STATE OF PLAY
• ASU (current NCAA Net ranking of 54) had its three-game winning streak snapped following a 69-62 loss at Creighton on Sunday. Mael Gilles scored a career-high 18 points, while Jade Loville (15 points) and Jaddan Simmons (14 points) combined for 29 points. The quartet of Gilles (8-13 FGs), Loville (7-13 FGs), Simmons (5-10 FGs) and Jayde Van Hyfte (4-6 FGs) combined to shoot 57 pct. (24-42).
• ASU is shooting 47.1 percent in its last three games. From long range, it has shot 37.5 pct or higher 4x and below 20 pct 4x.
• Four players have started every game: guards Jaddan Simmons (leads ASU in assists/2.6 apg) and Taya Hanson (leads ASU in 3-pointers/13) – both returners from last season's team – and transfers Mael Gilles (Rutgers) and Jade Loville (Boise State). Loville leads ASU in scoring (12.8 ppg), while Gilles paces the team in assists steals (2.3 spg) and blocks (1.2 bpg) and is second in scoring (10.2 ppg) and assists (2.5 apg).
• Sophomore post Maggie Besselink started the first seven games. She has missed ASU's last three games due to injury and is currently being evaluated on a game-to-game basis.
• Senior post Jayde Van Hyfte, the only Sun Devil on last year's roster to start every game in 2019-20, made her season debut the first weekend of December after not having played since the 2020-21 season opener. She is averaging 8.3 ppg and currently leads the team in FG pct. (83.3).
• Transfers Ayzhiana Basallo (two games) and Isadora Sousa (first four games) have also missed time due to injury. Basallo currently leads the team in 3-point FG pct. (46.7).
• The first month of the season was punctuated by a challenging schedule for a team not only getting used to playing with one another, but also adjusting to the personnel it did not have due to injuries.
• 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) and Hanson (12.0 ppg) both averaged double figures in scoring in the two games. Gilles averaged 7.0 ppg, 5.0 rebs, 4.0 blocks and 3.0 steals. Besselink had a career-high 15 rebounds vs. Minnesota.
• Despite a strong defensive effort, ASU was not able to overcome a 30-percent shooting performance in a 55-44 loss at BYU (Nov. 17).
• Coming off a 13-percent (3-24) outing from long rage at BYU, the Sun Devils came within one 3-pointer of tying the single-game school record after hitting 13 from downtown in an 82-53 win over Marist (Nov. 21). Ten of ASU's 13 triples came during a first half in which ASU shot a blistering 59 percent from beyond the arc.
• ASU went 1-2 at the Cancun Challenge played on Thanksgiving weekend. ASU started the tourney with setbacks against Houston (68-60) and No. 6 Baylor 62-52. In both contests, the Sun Devils fought back to get within single digits after trailing by double-figures. In the final of the three games it played in three days, ASU defeated Fordham 58-43. Simmons was named to the All-Tournament Team of the Cancun Challenge's Mayan Division after averaging 13.7 points while connecting on 93 percent (13-14) of her free throws in the three games.
• ASU swept its home tournament, the ASU Classic, defeating UTSA (68-44) and Harvard (91-54) to extend its winning streak to three games. Loville (13.0 ppg), Gilles (11.0 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 4.0 apg, 2.5 spg) and Basallo (10.0 ppg, 3.0 apg) were ASU's top contrubutors in the wins. Gabriela Bosquez (career-high nine points) and Imogen Greenslade (career-high 11 rebounds) both had strong outings off the bench against Harvard.
• Despite a career-high 18 points from Gilless, the Sun Devils had their three-game winning streak snapped at Creighton, 69-62 (Dec. 12). ASU shot 47 pct for the game, its third straight contest shooting 45 pct or higher. The Sun Devils doubled up Creighton in scoring (24-12) in the third quarter to take a five-point lead going the final frame. Creighton outscored ASU 28-16 over the last 10 minutes – the most points scored by an ASU opponent in a quarter this season – to come back and claim the win. The quartet of Gilles (8-13 FGs), Loville (7-13 FGs), Simmons (5-10 FGs) and Van Hyfte (4-6 FGs) combined to hit 57 pct (24-42) of their shots.
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 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 year. 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 pct from the field, 45.4 pct from beyond the arc (school single-season record) and 92.5 pct at the free throw line (school single-season record).
Jade Loville, a 5-10 wing who earned All-Mountain West honors last season, joined ASU 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 ASU 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 Rutgers earn its 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 brought, 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.
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. Simmons was named to the All-Tournament Team of the Cancun Challenge's Mayan Division after averaging 13.7 points while connecting on 93 percent (13-14) of her free throws in the three games.
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 46 of 98 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 (124), Hanson needs three 3-pointers to pass Courtney Ekmark (126 triples/2018-19) for seventh place ASU's all-time career list.
• Defensively, ASU has given up 55 or fewer points six times.
• ASU has had four different players –Simmons (4x), Hanson (3x) Loville (3x), Gilles (3x) – lead or tie for the team lead in scoring this season.
• ASU has dropped its only true 'road' games of this season, falling 55-44 at BYU on Nov. 17 and 69-62 at Creighton (Dec. 12).
• ASU has allowed an average of only 57.1 ppg since the start of the 2014-15 season (a span of 234 games). It has held the opposition to 50 or less points 72 times during that stretch. The Sun Devils are 68-4 in those contests.
• ASU has allowed 13 or fewer points in a quarter 22 times this season.
• Including its 5-5 record this season, ASU is 78-18 (.813) in non-conference, regular season games since 2013.
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.