ASU women's basketball hosts No. 8 Cal on Thursday night
After playing their last three games on the road, the No. 25 Arizona State women's basketball team returns to the familiar surroundings of Wells Fargo Arena this weekend to host a pair of Top-10 teams. The Sun Devils (11-5, 5-0 Pac-10) kickoff this week's festivities on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. when they host the No. 8/9 California Golden Bears (15-2, 6-0 Pac-10). They will then close out the weekend with a nationally televised contest against the No. 7/6 Stanford Cardinal (14-3, 4-2 Pac-10) on Sunday at 2 p.m.
If recent history is an indicator, this weekend's games will be pivotal in determining the eventual regular season Pac-10 champion. Last season Stanford (17-1), ASU (16-2) and Cal (12-6) finished first, second and third, respectively, in the final conference standings. In addition, in the last seven seasons Stanford and ASU have both been in the top two spots in the final conference standings six times. ASU and California come into Thursday's game as the only remaining unbeaten teams in the Pac-10. After finishing the non-conference portion of their schedule with a 6-5 mark, the Sun Devils have rebounded to win their last five games. Cal comes into the game with the longest current winning streak (seven games) in the Pac-10.
The Sun Devils are coming off a 75-65 win at Arizona on Saturday. Briann January came off the bench to lead ASU with 19 points. After not practicing all week because of a knee injury sustained at Oregon State (Jan. 5), January missed her first start of the season yet would go on to play a team-high 31 minutes. Also scoring in double figures for the Sun Devils were juniors post Lauren Lacey (15 points) and Sybil Dosty (13 points). The Sun Devils shot 54 percent from the field, their highest shooting percentage in a Pac-10 game this season. The Sun Devils got out to a 40-28 halftime lead, scoring their most first half points since recording 42 against Fresno State (Dec. 17). They would lead by as many as 16 in the second half.
Cal's current 15-2 record ties its best start in school history. The Golden Bears are led by juniors Alexis Gray-Lawson, Devanei Hampton and Ashley Walker. Hampton was the Pac-10 Player of the Year last season and was named the Pac-10 Player of the Week two weeks ago after averaging 18.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in wins over USC and UCLA. Walker is the current reigning Pac-10 Player of the Week after averaging 21.0 points and 7.5 rebounds in victories over Oregon and Oregon State. Gray-Lawson is second on the team in scoring (12.5 ppg).
ASU's game vs. California can be heard live on KXAM 1310 AM and on the sundevilsportsnetwork.com (subscription-based service). Coverage of the game will begin at 6 p.m. Valley veteran broadcaster Jeff Munn is in his fourth year as the voice of ASU women's basketball.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
• ASU is 30-2 in its last 32 regular season Pac-10 games going back to the 2004-05 season. The Sun Devils closed the 2005-06 season by winning their final nine Pac-10 games. ASU set a school record last season by winning 16 of 18 Pac-10 games (two losses came vs. Stanford). ASU's current 5-0 Pac-10 record is its best ever start in league play. In addition, the Sun Devils are 35-3 in home Pac-10 games since the 2003-04 season.
• Overall ASU has won 13 of the last 16 meetings against Cal since the 2000-01 season. ASU swept the regular season series last season, winning 74-58 in Berkeley (Dec. 28) and 66-54 in Tempe (Jan. 25) and defeated the Golden Bears a third time in the semifinals of the Pac-10 Tournament 60-53.
• Junior Lauren Lacey has averaged 17.2 points and 6.8 rebounds during ASU's current five-game winning streak. In the second half of those games she has averaged 11.2 points while connecting on 61.1 percent of her field goal attempts. She has scored in double figures in ASU's last 12 contests, including a career-high 23 points at Oregon (Jan. 3).
• In the second half of Pac-10 games the Sun Devils have outscored their opponents by an average eight points (36.6-28.6). Defensively speaking, they have nine more steals (26-17), have forced 14 more turnovers (57-43) and have allowed the opposition to shoot only 13.6 percent (3-22) from three-point range.
• Thursday's game will feature two of the top defensive teams in the Pac-10. ASU is third in scoring defense (59.6 ppg), first in opponent three-point FG pct. (.237) and third in steals (9.44 spg). Cal is first in the Pac-10 in scoring defense (53.6 ppg), first in field goal percent defense (.346) and second in three-point FG percent defense (.288).
• Currently with 1,086 career points, Jill Noe needs 49 points to move past Jovonne Smith (1989-92) for 11th place on ASU's all-time scoring list. Also one of ASU's all-time top three-point threats Noe (126 career three-point FGs) Noe needs eight three-point FGs to pass Betsy Boardman (2000-05) for third on ASU's all-time list.
SERIES HISTORY VERSUS CALIFORNIA
ASU leads the all-time series with Cal 26-23. ASU has dominated the series recently, having won 13 of the last 16 meetings in the series. The Sun Devils swept the regular season series last season, 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 Pac-10 Tournament. In the first game the Sun Devils came through with a victory that was much more difficult than the final margin of victory indicated. Trailing by six points (41-35) three minutes into the second half the Sun Devils used a 24-5 run over a seven-plus minute span to take control of the game. After shooting 12-31 (38.7 percent) in the first half, the Sun Devils warmed up in the second half, making 57.6 percent of their shots (19-33) while also out-rebounding the Golden Bears by 10 (20-10) after being out-rebounded 16-13 in the first half. Four Sun Devils scored in double figures led by Jill Noe, who had 16 points on six-of-nine shooting.
In the second game against Cal the Sun Devils had what head coach Charli Turner Thorne called "...a good old-fashioned grind-it-out Sun Devil win with our defense." ASU won despite shooting 40.0 percent for the game. Noe led the Sun Devils with a season-best 19 points while senior F Emily Westerberg added her second double-double of the year with 15 points and 10 rebounds. The Sun Devils held Cal to only two points the final five-plus minutes of the game. ASU scored 10 of the game's final 12 points after the Golden Bears pulled to within four points (56-52) with 5:22 remaining.
In the semifinals of the Pac-10 Tournament, Kirsten Thompson scored all 14 of her points in the second half to help the Sun Devils secure the win.
NOTES FROM THE SEASON
• The 49 points Fresno State scored on Dec. 17 represented the 11th time since the start of last season that ASU has held an opponent under 50 points.
•Twelve of ASU's 16 opponents have shot 25 percent or less from three-point range.
• The Sun Devils have had four games this season in which four players have scored in double figures.
• In ASU's 66-42 win over UC Santa Barbara (Nov. 17), Jill Noe tallied 12 points, seven rebounds and eight assists and narrowly missed becoming the first Sun Devil to record a triple-double since Ryneldi Becenti in 1992. For Noe, it is the third such time she has flirted with the feat. Last season she recorded 17 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds in a win over Northern Arizona and during her freshman season she posted 17 points, nine assists and nine rebounds in a win over Denver.
• Since the start of the 2006-07 season, the Sun Devils are 29-1 when they have outrebounded their opponents. The only exception came earlier this season when ASU fell to Auburn 75-69 in the championship game of the Verizon Wireless ASU Classic. In that game ASU held a slight 40-39 edge on the boards.
• While there really is no such thing as a "good loss" the Sun Devils can take some solace in the fact that the five teams they have lost to this season have a combined record of 62-16 (.794). ASU's five losses last season came to the national champion (Tennessee), the national runner-up (Rutgers) and the Pac-10 champions (Stanford).
HELP IS ON THE WAY
Without question, one of the biggest challenges facing ASU coming into the 2007-08 season was figuring out how it would compensate for the loss of All-Pac-10 performers Aubree Johnson and Emily Westerberg. In addition to being responsible for a combined 23.0 points and 10.8 rebounds per game in 2006-07 the duo also gave ASU a strong inside presence on both ends of the floor.
Enter junior transfers Sybil Dosty and Lauren Lacey. Biding their time since they last played a meaningful game in the spring of 2006, Dosty and Lacey were two players who were very eager to get on the floor and help the Sun Devils ascend to the top. Both players got to take a bit of a test drive with their teammates in real competition during ASU's trip to Italy last May in which the Sun Devils squared off against four different teams from around the country.
Originally a native of Tucson, Dosty spent her first two collegiate seasons at the University of Tennessee where she was part of a Final Four team her freshman year. Lacey, who transferred from the University of Minnesota, was also part of two squads that went to the NCAA Tournament.
Thus far in Pac-10 play Lacey and Dosty have combined for 27.8 points and 14.2 rebounds per game.
Lacey currently paces the Sun Devils in both scoring (12.8 ppg) and rebounding (6.6 rpg). She led ASU with a (then) career-best 19 points in its win over Iowa on Nov. 23 and would surpass that total with 20 against Auburn (Dec. 2). She would once again exceed her single-game career-best with a 23-point performance at Oregon (Jan. 3). The 23 points represent the most points scored by a Sun Devils this season. Lacey has scored in double figures in ASU's last 12 games and has grabbed a career-best 10 rebounds three times during that span.
The leader in field goal percentage during her two seasons at Tennessee, Dosty is currently shooting 53.8 percent from the field . In late December Dosty averaged 17.0 points and 10.5 rebounds while shooting 57.9 percent in ASU's come-from-behind victories over UCLA and USC (66-63). The Tucson, Ariz., native averaged 13.0 points and 7.0 rebounds in the second half of both games in helping the Sun Devils overcome an eight-point deficit against the Bruins and an 11-point deficit against USC. Dosty was recognized for her performances against the Bruins and Trojans in being named the Pac-10's Player of the Week. In Pac-10 games Dosty is tied for second on the team in scoring (10.6 ppg) and leads the squad in rebounding (7.4 rpg).
JANUARY PLAYS WITH MARCH STATE OF MIND
This season ASU junior guard Briann January has shown time and again the type of play that has made her one of the top players in the Pac-10 Conference. January, who was one of five players named to the preseason All-Pac-10 team, currently leads the conference in assists (4.88 apg), steals (2.63 spg) and free throw percentage (.866) while ranking second on ASU in scoring (11.6 ppg).
Last season January earned All-Pac-10 honorable mention honors in helping lead ASU to a school record 31 wins and its first Elite Eight appearance in school history. In 2006-07, the 5-8, Spokane, Wash., product finished third in the Pac-10 in steals (2.1 per game), fourth in assists (4.0 per game) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.67), and sixth in free throw percentage (81.7). A starter in 34 games, January concluded her sophomore campaign first on the team in both assists and steals and second in both scoring (10.2 points per game) and free throw percentage.
This season January has scored in double figures in 12 times in 16 games, including a 22-point performance against Texas (Dec. 22), which tied her career best. In ASU's 75-65 win at Arizona (Jan. 12), January turned in a performance that was nothing short of remarkable. After sitting out the entire week of practice with a knee injury January came off the bench to lead ASU with 19 points while connecting on all seven of her field goal attempts and both free throws, while also adding five assists, one block and one steal.
SUN DEVILS WORK THROUGH EARLY SEASON INJURIES
When the announcement came down on Dec. 26 that junior guard Danielle Orsillo would miss the remainder of the 2007-08 season because of a knee injury, it capped an unlucky first two months of the season in which Sun Devil players missed a combined 17 games because of injuries.
Orsillo was originally diagnosed with a bone bruise in her left knee one week after scoring a career-best 21 points in ASU's season opener at North Carolina (Nov. 11). She would go on to miss ASU's next 10 regular season games before it was determined that she would miss the rest of the season. In 2006-07 Orsillo scored in double figures 16 times and was one of four Sun Devils to play in all 36 games.
Dymond Simon, a member of the Pac-10's All-Freshman Team last season, was limited early in the season as she returned from a torn ACL she suffered in January, 2007. She was having a strong outing against Texas Tech on Dec. 13, scoring 11 points in 12 minutes before being forced to leave the game after aggravating her knee injury. She would return to the game for two minutes before leaving again. Simon would go on to miss ASU's next two games, including the Sun Devils' 62-51 loss to Texas (Dec. 20). Simon returned in time for the start of conference play and her presence on the floor has had a big impact. In ASU's last three games Simon has averaged 13.3 points. Simon scored a season-best 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting in ASU's 69-60 win at Oregon State (Jan. 5).
Junior post Sybil Dosty injured her knee earlier this fall and was forced to miss all of ASU's preseason practices. She averaged only 12 minutes in the first four games as she was slowly worked into the rotation. Through five games of Pac-10 play Dosty is tied for second on the team in scoring (10.6 ppg) and first in rebounding (7.4 rpg). She was named Pac-10 Player of the Week after averaging 17.0 points and 10.5 rebounds while shooting 57.9 in ASU's come-from-behind victories over UCLA (Dec. 28) and USC (Dec. 30).
Junior guard Kate Engelbrecht suffered a hand injury during the first preseason practice and was forced to miss the rest of ASU's preseason workouts and its first two games. She scored a season-high eight points in ASU's win over Fresno State on Dec. 17.
Senior guard Reagan Pariseau missed ASU's games against Auburn (Dec. 2) and UC Davis (Dec. 9) after injuring her ankle early in ASU's win over Gonzaga on Nov. 30. She returned to action on Dec. 13 at Texas Tech and made an immediate impact, scoring nine points on 4-4 shooting. Although she was healthy for ASU's contest vs. Texas (Dec. 20), Pariseau would only play 22 minutes and was limited for much of that time after absorbing a blow to the head early in the game. Then, midway through the second half, Jill Noe, who came into the Texas game averaging 14 points in her previous five games, was forced to leave the game because of an ankle injury.
ORSILLO FEATURED IN SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
Arizona State junior guard Danielle Orsillo was featured in "The Year in Sports" issue (Dec. 31-Jan. 7) of Sports Illustrated for her community involvement. Orsillo, among other community endeavors, has spent more than 150 hours of her time the last two years at The Arc of Tempe, a recreation center for mentally disabled adults. Orsillo, whose brother Mark has Down syndrome, engages in various activities with others at The Arc, including cooking, playing video games and shooting hoops. The story touched on the friendship that has developed between Danielle and one of The Arc's regular attendees, Daniel Strelitz, who also has Down syndrome. Orsillo is currently sidelined for the season with a knee injury she sustained during the first week of the season.
SUN DEVILS PARTICIPATING IN NCAA/PAC-10 "PACK THE HOUSE CHALLENGE"
This season Arizona State University elected to participate in the NCAA/Pac-10 "Pack the House" challenge whereby member schools compete nationally with their conference rivals to set attendance records, win great prizes, and grow the sport of Women's Basketball within their communities. Sun Devil fans can make history by setting an attendance record at Wells Fargo Arena on Sunday, January 20th when the ASU women's basketball team takes on No. 7 Stanford at 2 p.m. The first 500 fans to enter Wells Fargo Arena on January 20th will receive a FREE gold t-shirt.
Tickets for this game can be purchased online now at a discounted price of $2 general admission or $6 reserved seating by using the promotional code STANWBB. Purchase of online tickets through Saturday, January 19th guarantees eligibility to win prizes such as autographed basketballs, posters, Gordon Biersch restaurant coupons, and four (4) women's basketball tickets to any remaining home game this season. Tickets purchased online prior to this promotional offer have already been entered into the drawing for the aforementioned prizes.
Fans who purchased tickets to the game but are unable to attend may donate their tickets back to ASU Women's Basketball for distribution to local youth organizations by completing the online ticket donation form or by calling ASU Women's Basketball at (480) 965-6086. Fans interested in purchasing tickets solely for donation to local youth groups are welcome to do so and may follow the same procedure. Every ticket donated will allow youth, many of whom cannot afford to purchase tickets, the opportunity to attend a Sun Devil Women's Basketball game and help ASU win the NCAA/Pac-10 "Pack the House" challenge.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR CHARLI?
With its 67-49 win over Bowling Green in the Sweet Sixteen of the 2007 NCAA Tournament the Arizona State women's basketball team clinched its first ever appearance in the Elite Eight of the "The Big Dance." It was the latest `first time ...' for the Sun Devils under head coach Charli Turner Thorne, who continues to build on what is the most successful period in the program's history. Since the 2004-05 season the Sun Devils are 91-28, including a 6-3 record in NCAA Tournament games the last three seasons.
In 2005-06 Turner Thorne had the Sun Devils in the Top 10 of both polls for the first time in 22 years. If the figure `22 years' sounds familiar it's because in 2004-05 Turner Thorne led the Sun Devils to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 22 years. After leading the Sun Devils to a 25-7 in 2005-06 Turner Thorne was recognized being named the Russell Athletic/Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Region 8 Coach of the Year.
Now in her 12th season in Tempe, Turner Thorne has more than established the Sun Devils as one of the teams to watch on an annual basis not only in the Pac-10 Conference, but also across the country. In fact, since the 2000-01 season the Sun Devils have won the second-highest number of overall games (168) in the Pac-10 Conference.
WHAT'S COMING UP?
The Sun Devils host the No. 7 Stanford Cardinal on Sunday at 2 p.m. The game will be televised live by Fox Sports Net.