Sun Devil WBB travels to Montana State for first road contest of 2022-23
THE GAME: Sun Devil WBB (2-0) at Montana State (2-0)
WHEN: Tuesday at 7 p.m. MST
WHERE: Worthington Arena • Bozeman, Mont.
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RADIO: KDUS AM 1060
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After opening the 2022-23 season with a pair of home wins, the Sun Devil women's basketball team (2-0) goes on the road for the first time this season when it travels to Bozeman, Mont., to face 2022 Big Sky Tournament champion and 2022 NCAA Tournament participant Montana State on Tuesday night (7 p.m. MST).
The Sun Devils started out the Natasha Adair era on a winning note as they edged Northern Arizona 69-68 on Nov. 7. Junior guard Jaddan Simmons tied her career high with 22 points while Delaware transfer Tyi Skinner added 12 points. In her debut for the Sun Devils, Meg Newman, who redshirted last season, had a near double-double with nine points and 11 rebounds.
Trailing 68-67, Simmons stepped to the foul line and sank both free throw shots to give ASU the win. ASU held the Lumberjacks to zero points in the final three minutes of play, using a quick 5-0 spurt to clinch the one-point victory. Newman's rebound in the closing seconds clinched the win.
ASU's second win, a 62-49 decision over Grambling State on Friday, came in much less dramatic fashion. ASU led by 16 in the middle of the third quarter, but the Lady Tigers got back within nine points less than two minutes into the final frame. Skinner personally made sure ASU did not have a second-consecutive, one-possession game to open the season as the junior guard scored 11 of her game-high 16 points – and 11 of ASU's 16 points as a team – in the final quarter. Skinner could not miss as she swished all four of her field goals, including a pair of makes from downtown and hit the only free throw she attempted.
"I'm just super proud of this group because we're watching them get better every day," Adair said after ASU's second win. "They're trying to apply the things that we've been working on and emphasizing. And we will continue to just build on this."
NOTES ON THE OPPOSITION
Montana State is also 2-0 after more than doubling up Providence (Mont.) 78-31 in its opener before going on the road and bringing back a 69-60 win over BYU.
The Bobcats are a veteran squad as they return four starters who played a pivotal role in helping them make their third NCAA Appearance in program history in 2022. Among the players returning are Darian White, named the Big Sky Conference's preseason MVP pick and preseason all-conference selection Kola Bad Bear.
ASU has won the three previous meetings, but Tuesday's game will be the first time the two teams have crossed paths since 1993.
SEE YOU IN DECEMBER
Tuesday's game at Montana State begins a stretch in which the Sun Devils will be playing five consecutive games away from Desert Financial Arena after opening the season with a pair of wins on their home floor.
This weekend ASU will be back on the road for a game at New Mexico on Sunday before traveling to The Bahamas for the Goombay Splash where ASU will face American and Notre Dame on Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 25-26). The Sun Devils' last road game will be a bus trip to nearby Phoenix to take on Grand Canyon University.
ASU will be back in Desert Financial Arena the first weekend in December to take on UMass (Dec. 2) and Missouri (Dec. 4).
• Three Sun Devils have averaged double figures in scoring over the first two games: returning junior guard Jaddan Simmons (17.0 ppg) and transfers, junior guard Tyi Skinner (Delaware/14.0 ppg) and Treasure Hunt (Kentucky/10.0 ppg). Simmons has the highest single-game point total by a Sun Devil after scoring a career high-tying 22 points vs. NAU (Nov. 7).
• Skinner (seven assists/one turnover), freshman guard Trayanna Crisp (six assists/one turnover) and junior guard Sydney Erikstrup (five assists/two turnovers) have combined for 18 assists and only four turnovers.
• Combined with her 10.0 ppg per game average, Hunt is nearly averaging a double-double as she currently leads the team in rebounding, averaging 9.5 rebounds per game. Hunt became the first Sun Devil to account for a double-double this season with 13 points and 11 rebounds in ASU's win over Grambling State (Nov. 11). Meg Newman, who made her Sun Devil debut in the season opener after missing the 2021-22 campaign due to injury, came up just short of claiming the first double-double of the season after her nine-point, 11-rebound outing vs. NAU. Newman's final rebound of the game sealed ASU's 69-68 win as she boarded NAU's initial attempt to win the game on its final possession.
• Hunt (9.5 RPG) is one of four Sun Devils averaging 6.0 or more rebounds: Newman/6.5 rpg), TCU transfer center Kayla Mokwuah (6.0 rpg) and Simmons (6.0 rpg).
• Simmons is the only ASU player who has shot a double-digit number of free throws. Simmons' propensity for getting to the line is especially pleasing when factoring in the fact she has missed only one free throw thus far (13-14/93 percent). With ASU down 68-67 and 20 seconds remaining, Simmons calmly knocked down two free throws to lift ASU to a 69-68 win over NAU (Nov. 7) in its season opener.
• While it is of little surprise, Simmons (No. 2 on the team in steals each of the last two seasons), is tied with Skinner for the team lead in steals (2.5 spg). More of a surprise is Simmons also leads the team in shot blocks (2.0 bpg) over the first two games.
• Eight different Sun Devils have averaged at least eight minutes in the first two games.
• When ASU's defense has needed to be at its best, it has answered the call in the first two games. NAU did not score after going up 68-64 with 3:01 remaining (Nov. 7). When Grambling State cut ASU's 16-point lead to nine early in the fourth quarter (Nov. 11), the Sun Devils answered with a 12-1 run.
NOTES ON THE 2022-23 ROSTER
• New Sun Devil head coach Natasha Adair and her staff did an outstanding job of bringing in several talented players capable of making an immediate impact to join the core of talent that chose to commit to Adair after she was named head coach in late March. After a national search, Adair was hired to assume the vacancy left by Sun Devil Hall of Fame coach Charli Turner Thorne, who announced her retirement at the conclusion of the 2021-22 season.
• Guards Jaddan Simmons, Sydney Erikstrup, Isadora Sousa, G/F Maggie Besselink and posts Imogen Greenslade and Meg Newman all remained Sun Devils. All six players are expected to play significant roles this season. Although she was on last year's roster, Meg Newman did not make her Sun Devil debut until the first game of the 2022-23 season as she missed her entire freshman campaign due to injury.
• Another player who chose to stay with the school she originally committed to was incoming freshman and local product Trayanna Crisp, who signed with ASU in November 2021. Adair and her staff were already familiar with Crisp as they recruited the standout guard when they were at Delaware.
• Knowing everything Arizona State University and Sun Devil Athletics has to offer, Adair and her staff were confident in their ability to sign the players they had identified from the pool of talent that included student-athletes in the transfer portal and freshman players who had yet to sign.
• Joining ASU from other college programs were a trio of impressive guards – sophomore Morasha Wiggins (North Carolina) and juniors Tyi Skinner (Delaware) and Treasure Hunt (Kentucky) – and an experienced post in the form of fifth-year center Kayla Mokwuah (TCU).
• A pair of freshmen from Pennsylvania – guard Jaylah Robinson and post Journey Thompson – were also excited to come and be a part Adair's vision for Sun Devil Women's Basketball.
• Prior to ASU's season opener, Adair summed up the process that took place over the offseason and fall camp of gelling the returners with the newcomers: "I think that's been the biggest thing we've focused on, especially in the off-season and summer when everyone got here. It's more about the culture of the team. You had six players that were here and then there was so much change. With the new players coming in, we still talked about why ASU? I think if you keep everyone focused on why ASU, their love for ASU, then it doesn't matter where the players came from. It's just where we are now. But we've spent so much time learning about one another, who we are, what makes us who we are, what's important, our heroes, our hardships and our highlights, and with young women, it's trust. I think everyday being consistent, showing up for one another, and just recognizing everyone's strength and every piece to the puzzle, then we talk about the masterpiece. Really excited about all the moving parts, and they're really working together nicely."
SUN DEVIL WBB PARTICIPATES IN PAC-12-SWAC LEGACY SERIES
On Fri., Nov. 11 Arizona State hosted Grambling State as part of the inaugural Pac-12-SWAC Legacy Series.
Announced in Sept. 2021, the partnership between the Pac-12 and SWAC is the first of its kind pertaining to basketball scheduling between Autonomy 5 and HBCU leagues, but also placed crucial emphasis on raising awareness for anti-racism and social justice initiatives.
A critical component of the Legacy Series is ongoing educational opportunities for student-athletes featuring community leaders and expert Conference alumni.
The event came on the heels of this past summer's Pac-12 ImPACt experience in Selma and Montgomery, Ala., in which conference student-athletes and administrators journeyed to the center of the civil rights movement.
"I think anytime we have an opportunity to talk about social issues and bring them to the forefront and use our platform, but also to merge with the PAC-12 and the SWAC," ASU head coach Natasha Adair said after the game. "I think it's our opportunity and our responsibility to make sure that we educate and grow our student-athletes and so to be able to talk. We [Arizona State and Grambling State] broke bread together [earlier in the week] and just had a really good time meeting one another.
"But it stands for more than just basketball. You have a responsibility, especially on this big stage to make sure we're not just coaching them on the court. We're coaching them and preparing them for life. And they will be able to grow as women and be empowered to speak up for things that they are passionate about, and just things to just affect change in society. I think it's really needed and just thankful to be a part of the conference that thought so."
CHALLENGING NON-CONFERENCE SCHEDULE AWAITS ASU
Contests against eight teams that qualified for postseason play last season highlight the Arizona State women's basketball team's 2022 non-conference schedule.
The Sun Devils will play five of their non-conference contests at home, including tilts against 2022 NCAA Tournament participant and Atlantic-10 champion UMass (Dec. 2) and 2022 WNIT participant Missouri (Dec. 4).
The Sun Devils will be spending Thanksgiving weekend at the Goombay Splash (Nov. 25-26/Bimini, Bahamas) where they will face two 2022 NCAA Tournament teams in the form of Notre Dame (NCAA Third Round) and American (NCAA First Round and Patriot League Tournament champions).
Other teams ASU will face that qualified for 2022 postseason play include road contests against Montana State (Nov. 15/NCAA First Round), New Mexico (Nov. 20/WNIT Third Round), Grand Canyon (Nov. 30/WNIT First Round) and Stephen F. Austin (Dec. 11/NCAA First Round).