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ASU women's basketball faces Cal at Berkeley

March 04, 2009

After concluding the home portion of its 2008-09 schedule last weekend, the No. 18 Arizona State women’s basketball team now finds itself on the road for the remainder of the campaign. The indefinite road trip begins this Thursday (7 p.m. PT/8 p.m. MT) when the Sun Devils travel to Berkeley, Calif., to take on the No. 9 California Golden Bears in the first of back-to-back games against Top 10 opponents.

The Sun Devils (22-6, 14-2 Pac-10) enter this week’s action tied with California (23-4, 14-2 Pac-10) for second place in the Pac-10. Both teams are a full game behind No. 2 Stanford (24-4, 15-1 Pac-10), which hosts Arizona on Thursday. Arizona State will play at Stanford on Saturday (12:30 p.m. PT/1:30 p.m. MT) in a game that will be televised live by Fox Sports Net.

The Sun Devils are still riding their school record winning streak, which reach 14 game following last weekend’s wins over Washington (55-32) and Washington State (76-35). Dymond Simon averaged 11.0 points and 3.0 assists to lead the Sun Devils, who gave up an average of only 33.5 points in the two games.

The Golden Bears are 3-2 in their last five games since starting the Pac-10 season 11-0. Losses at Stanford (58-41 on Feb. 14) and most recently at UCLA (71-56 last Sunday) are sandwiched around a pair of dominant wins over the Oregon schools (Feb. 19 & 21) and a two-point win (66-64) at USC last Friday. California is led by senior Ashley Walker, who enters this Thursday’s game first in the Pac-10 in scoring (19.9 ppg) and third in both rebounding (8.5 rpg) and field goal percent (.553).

Arizona State’s game vs. California can be heard live on The Fan AM 1060 and on the Sun Devil Sports Network (subscription-based service that can be accessed via Pre-game coverage will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Valley. Veteran broadcaster Jeff Munn is in his fifth year as the voice of ASU women’s basketball.

Cal leads the all-time series 27-26 and currently owns a four-game winning streak against the Sun Devils. In the most recent meeting, which took place Jan. 4 in Tempe, Cal’s Ashley Walker scored on a layup with 1.8 seconds left to give the Golden Bears a 54-53 win. Walker’s basket came following a 3-pointer by Dymond Simon, which capped a 13-2 ASU run and gave ASU a one-point lead with 8.7 seconds left.

The Golden Bears swept all three contests last season (64-51 in Tempe, 70-60 in Berkeley and 65-61 in Pac-10 Tourney semifinals). Prior to last season’s sweep the Sun Devils had won 13 of 16 meetings. The Sun Devils swept the regular season series in 2006-07 , defeating the Golden Bears 74-58 in Berkeley (Dec. 28) and 66-54 in Tempe (Jan. 25). ASU also defeated the Golden Bears 60-53 in the semifinals of the 2007 Pac-10 Tournament. 

• Arizona State is currently on a school record 14-game winning streak. Among teams ranked in this week’s AP Top 25, only No. 1 Connecticut (30) and No. 25 Bowling Green (25) have won more consecutive games than ASU. No. 17 South Dakota State is also on a 14-game winning streak.

• Both of this weekend’s game will be rematches of contests that took place in Tempe the first week of January. On January 2 Stanford defeated ASU 64-61. Two days later California defeated ASU 54-53 on a last-second shot by Ashley Walker. Following the losses the Sun Devils were 8-6, 0-2 in the Pac-10 and found themselves on a three-game losing streak for the first since the end of the 2003-04 season. They have not lost since, having won their last 14 games.

• Currently 22-6, the Sun Devils have now won 20 or more games seven times in the last nine seasons, including the last five in a row. ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne joins former Washington head coach Chris Gobrecht and current Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer as the only other coaches in Pac-10 history (since the 1986-87 season) to have led their respective schools to five (or more) consecutive 20-win seasons.

• ASU has won nearly 83 percent (58-12) of its Pac-10 contests since the 2005-06 season. This weekend the Sun Devils are on the road, where they are a combined 26-3 in their last 29 Pac-10 road contests.

• In the most recent NCAA statistics (Mar. 2), ASU was third in the nation in three-point FG percentage (.401), fifth in the nation in assists per game (17.2), 10th in field goal percentage (.457), 12th in scoring margin (+15.5), 21st in scoring defense (54.6 ppg) and 20th in assist-to-turnover ratio (0.99). The Sun Devils currently lead the Pac-10 in three-point FG percentage and turnover margin (+4.4) and are second in field goal percentage, scoring defense, free throw percentage (.739), assists per game, blocked shots per game (4.3), steals per game (10.6) and assist-to-turnover ratio.  

• During ASU’s current 14-game winning streak the Sun Devils have allowed only 51.3 points per game (40.0 ppg in last three contests) and are outscoring their opponents by an average of 18.6 points. In addition, ASU is allowing an average of only 21.7 points in the first half of its last 14 games. In the first half of last Thursday’s win vs. Washington the Sun Devils set a school record for the fewest points ever allowed in a half (8). 

• Five of ASU’s six losses this season have come to teams currently ranked in the top 21 of the current Associated Press poll – No. 2 Stanford, No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 9 California, No. 15 Texas and No. 21 Florida – including three of the current AP Top 10. Three of those five losses – Florida (65-60), Stanford (64-61) and California (54-53) – came by a combined nine points.

• In their win over Oregon State on Feb. 7, the Sun Devils broke the school single-season record for most blocks (102). ASU currently has 120 rejections on the season. 

• In their win vs. Washington on Feb. 26, the Sun Devils broke the school single-season record for most 3-point field goals (135). ASU has now made 143 3-pointers this season.

 • With five assists against California on Jan. 4, senior guard Briann January became ASU’s all-time assists leader. She currently has 503 assists in her career. With 258 career steals January is currently second on ASU’s all-time list. Entering this weekend’s games, January is second in the nation in 3-point FG percentage (.463) and 13th in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.1). She leads the Pac-10 in assists per game (4.7), 3-point FG percentage (.463), assist to turnover ratio (2.1) and steals per game (2.4), is third in free throw percent (.843), fourth in 3-point FGs per game (2.1) and 14th in scoring (12.0 ppg).

• Currently with 57 3-point field goals, January needs four more triples to break ASU’s single-season record of 60 set by Amanda Levens in 2000-01. 

• Post players Becca Tobin (24-34, .706), Sybil Dosty  (26-49, .531) and Kayli Murphy (19-32, .594) are shooting a combined 60 percent (69-115) in ASU’s last nine games. Tobin has connected on 66 percent (31-47) of her shot attempts during ASU’s current 14-game winning streak.

Dymond Simon, who was named the Pac-10’s Player of the Week on Feb. 2, has led the Sun Devils in scoring during their current winning streak (15.0 ppg). 

• ASU’s leading rebounder last season, senior Sybil Dosty has continued to lead the Sun Devils in boards this season and is currently sixth in the Pac-10, averaging 7.1 rebounds per game. Currently third on ASU’s all-time list with 80 career blocks, Dosty needs 20 blocks to pass Fran Ciak (1987-90) for second place on the list.

Coming into the 2008-09 season, ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne said she expected the Sun Devils to have an improved perimeter game from last season when they shot slightly more than 33 percent from beyond the arc. “We were an ok perimeter shooting team last year; but not great,” Turner Thorne said before the season. “I think this might be one of the best perimeter shooting teams we have had in my tenure at ASU.” Thus far it would appear the Sun Devils have proven Turner Thorne right as they are currently first in the Pac-10 and No. 3 in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (.401). Currently with 143 3-point FGs this season the Sun Devils have already broken the previous school record of 135 triples set by the 2004-05 team. Leading the way are guards Briann January (57), Dymond Simon (35) and Danielle Orsillo (24), who have combined for 116 of ASU’s 143 triples. Earlier this season the Sun Devils hit a school record 14 3-pointers in a 73-59 win at UC Davis. Leading the way was January, who tied the school record with seven makes from downtown. 

If there is one thing ASU head coach Charli Turner Throrne’s teams have become known for over the years it is defense. The Sun Devils offered another reminder of their excellence in defending on Dec. 6 when they defeated UC Irvine 75-23 to set the single-game Pac-10 record for the fewest points ever allowed by a Pac-10 team. It’s the second time in as many seasons that the Sun Devils have set a conference record for fewest points in a game. Last season the Sun Devils set the standard for the fewest points allowed in a Pac-10 game in their 59-30 win over Washington State. Since the 2005-06 season the Sun Devils have held the opposition to 50 or fewer points 26 times. This season the Sun Devils have accounted for several single-game defensive superlatives in the Pac-10, including fewest points (23), lowest field goal percentage (.209), fewest field goals (9 - tied with Oregon State), fewest field goal attempts (38), fewest three-point field goals made (0 - twice) and attempted (2 - twice), most blocks (10 - tied with Arizona) and fewest rebounds (19 - twice - tied with Oregon State). In addition, the Sun Devils have held the opposition to 20 or fewer points in a half 13 times this season, including their win over Washington (Feb. 26) in which the Sun Devils held the Huskies to eight points in the first half, setting the school record for the fewest points ever allowed in a half.

Finishing 12th in the country in any statistical category would usually be considered great by most standards. That is unless of course a team is used to higher standards. After finishing among the nation’s top 5 in assists in 2005-06 and 2006-07, the Sun Devils slipped to 12th last season. Through 28 games it would appear that the Sun Devils have returned to the nation’s elite in the category. Currently ASU is fifth in the country averaging 17.2 assists per game. The Sun Devils have dished out 20 or more assists seven times this season, including a season-best 30 assists vs. Northern Arizona (Dec. 7), the second-highest single-game total in the Pac-10 this season.

Two local standouts who have achieved exceptional success and a top-notch guard from California highlighted the 2008 women’s basketball signing class for Arizona State announced by Sun Devil head coach Charli Turner Thorne in November. Joy Burke, Deja Mann and Markisha Patterson all signed letters of intent to study and play basketball at ASU. 

A 6-foot-5 post player, Burke was named to The Arizona Republic’s All-Arizona team in 2008 in addition to earning second-team All-Tribune honors from the East Valley Tribune following a season in which she led Tempe Marcos de Niza to the state quarterfinals. During her decorated junior season, Burke averaged 19.8 points, 14.5 rebounds and 5.5 blocks per game. 

A 5-foot-8 combo guard, Mann will be joining the Sun Devils from Merced High School in Merced, Calif. Mann, who was sidelined because of injury her junior season, had an outstanding sophomore campaign in which she averaged nearly 16 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and three assists per game on her way to being named the Central California Conference MVP. Mann, who averaged 14.1 points per game as a freshman, also starred on the Modesto Magic club team this past summer. An outstanding shooter, Mann ranked No. 25 on’s best “Gunners” of the summer. 

A 5-foot-8 guard, Patterson will be coming to ASU from Central Arizona College where last season she helped lead her team to a runner-up finish at the National Junior College Athletic Association championships. Known as a defensive specialist at Central Arizona, Patterson is very familiar with what it takes to win championships. In 2007, she helped lead Tolleson High School to the Class 5A Division II state title after she scored 19 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in the championship game.

Undoubtedly one of the integral components of ASU’s success in recent years has been the play of senior Briann January. Since she arrived in Tempe in 2005, the 5-8 guard from Spokane, Wash., has proven time and again to be one of the most explosive players in the nation on both ends of the floor. Last season January was named the first ever Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year in addition to earning Second-Team All-Pac-10 honors for a campaign in which she finished first in the Pac-10 in steals (2.18 spg) and free throw percentage (.864), third in assists (4.39 apg), fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio and 15th in scoring. Earlier this season January was recognized for her outstanding play in being one of six women’s college basketball players around the country to share (along with All-America candidate sophomore James Harden from the Arizona State men’s basketball team) a regional cover on Sports Illustrated’s College Basketball Preview. Thus far in 2008-09 January has experienced anything but an SI jinx as she currently leads the Pac-10 in assists per game (4.7), 3-point FG percentage (.463), assist to turnover ratio and steals per game (2.4), is third in free throw percent (.843) and fourth in 3-point FGs per game (2.1). Already ASU’s all-time leader in career assists (503), January is steadily making her way up the list of ASU’s all-time leaders in steals, free throws and points. Currently she is second in steals (258, needs 33 steals to catch all-time leader Cassandra Lander), third in free throws (375, needs 13 to pass Kym Hampton for second place) and ninth in scoring (needs two points to pass Karen O’Connor for eighth place). Currently with 57 3-point field goals, January needs four more triples to break ASU’s single-season record of 60 set by Amanda Levens in 2000-01. 

Like fellow guard Danielle Orsillo, junior Dymond Simon knows the experience of having to rebound from a season ending injury. In 2006-07, Simon quickly made a name for herself as one of the top freshman in the Pac-10 before a knee injury ended her season midway through the conference season. In 2007-08 Simon played in 30 games, as she tirelessly worked to regain her high level of play while at the same time still enduring effects from the injury. By the time last March rolled around Simon was once again at the top of her game, earning All-Pac-10 Tournament recognition after averaging 14.5 points and 3.5 assists in ASU’s two tournament games, including a season-best 22 points in the semifinals against Cal. Fast forward to this season and Simon has helped to give the Sun Devils one of the top backcourts in the country. Simon has scored in double figures 23 times in 27 games this season, including a season-best 22 points vs. USC (Jan. 17). On Feb. 2 Simon was named the Pac-10’s Player of the Week after averaging 15.5 points and 4.5 assists in wins at Washington State and at Washington. She is currently first on the team in scoring (14.0 ppg), is second to fellow guard Briann January in three-point FGs (35), assists (3.4 apg) and steals (1.4 spg) and is first in the Pac-10 and fifth in the nation in free throw shooting percentage (.894).

One of the central figures in the success of ASU’s interior game has been center Sybil Dosty. The senior from Tucson, Ariz., transferred to ASU in 2005 after spending her first two seasons at the University of Tennessee. In her first season as a Sun Devil in 2007-08 Dosty finished first on the team in both rebounding (6.4 rpg) and field goal percentage (.540) while at the same time accumulating the fourth-highest single-season block total (40) in school history. This season Dosty has continued to build on last year’s success as she currently leads the team in rebounding (7.1 rpg) and blocks (1.4 bpg), is second in field goal percent (.541) and third in scoring (8.5 ppg). At her current rebounding pace Dosty would become only the third Sun Devil since 1996 to average more than seven rebounds per game. Currently third on ASU’s all-time list with 80 career blocks, Dosty needs 20 blocks to pass Fran Ciak (1987-90) for second place on the list. Dosty’s 40 blocks this season currently rank fourth in ASU’s single-season annals. She needs five blocks to move into third place.