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Women's baskeball goes on the road to face UCLA and USC

February 23, 2012

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The Arizona State women's basketball team goes on the road for a pair of important contests this week when it travels to Los Angeles to take on UCLA (Thursday at 7 p.m. PT/8 p.m. MT) and USC (2 p.m. PT/3 p.m. MT).

This week's contests will have a big impact on seeding for the upcoming Pacific Life Pac-12 Basketball Tournament taking place Mar. 7-10 in Los Angeles. Second-ranked Stanford (24-1, 15-0 Pac-12) has already clinched the regular season league title and one of four first-round byes in the Pac-12 Tournament. The Sun Devils (18-8, 9-6 Pac-12) are still in position to grab one of the other three byes as they enter this Thursday's game in third place. ASU is two games behind second-place Cal (20-7, 11-4), one-half game ahead of fourth-place USC (14-11, 8-6 Pac-12), one game ahead of fifth-place Oregon State (17-9, 8-7 Pac-12) and 1.5 games ahead of the sixth-place Bruins (12-13, 7-7 Pac-12).

ASU went 9-2 in non-conference play and won its first Pac-12 contest (defeated Arizona 60-45 on Dec. 31) before losing three straight games vs. USC, vs. UCLA and at Oregon State to fall into a tie for ninth place in the Pac-12. The Sun Devils then rebounded with five straight wins, including wins on the road at Oregon, at Washington and at Washington State, to climb all the way back into a tie for second place. Consecutive home losses to No. 4 Stanford and Cal and a loss on the road to Utah sent ASU back into a tie for fifth place before it bounced back with its current three-game winning streak.

Last week the Sun Devils closed out the home portion of their 2011-12 schedule with a sweep of the Washington schools -- 47-41 vs. Washington and 47-42 vs. Washington State. Senior Olivia Major had a career-high 14 points and senior Kali Bennett broke the single-game school record for blocks with nine in ASU's win over Washington on Thursday. Bennett's nine rejections were part of a school record 16 blocks for ASU.

In Saturday's win, Alex Earl and Janae Fulcher each scored 11 points as the Sun Devils staved off a furious 17-4 Washington State rally in the closing minutes to defeat the Cougars, 47-42. ASU limited the Cougars to a 27-percent shooting effort while forcing 20 turnovers.

Both of this week's games will be rematches of games the Sun Devils lost in Tempe the first week of January (USC, 60-48 on Jan. 5 and UCLA, 64-48 on Jan. 7). Offensively speaking, the Sun Devils struggled in both games as they shot 32 percent for the weekend, including 18 percent from beyond the arc. Bennett was the only Sun Devil to register double figures in points in either of the two games after scoring 15 against UCLA.

UCLA has lost its last three games, most recently a 66-54 setback at USC on Sunday. Prior to their current losing streak, the Bruins had won four straight and six of eight overall. Senior guard Rebekah Gardner leads the team and is fourth in the Pac-12 in scoring, averaging 16.0 points per game.

After this week's games, the Sun Devils will conclude the regular season on Sat., Mar. 3 (2 p.m. MT), when they travel to Tucson to take on Arizona in round two of the State Farm Territorial Cup Series.

Thursday's game at UCLA can be heard live on The Fan AM 1060. Coverage will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Valley. Veteran broadcaster and the state of Arizona's 2010 Broadcaster of the Year Jeff Munn is in his eighth season as the voice of ASU women's basketball.

• Currently 18-8, the Sun Devils need two more victories to clinch their seventh 20-win season in the last eight years.
• UCLA has won 46 of the 71 all-time meetings, including the last five in a row. UCLA's win in the first meeting of 2009-10 in Tempe broke a seven-game ASU winning streak.
• As of Feb. 19, ASU is ranked No. 5 in the nation in blocked shots per game (6.2), No. 8 in FG pct. defense (.337) and No. 10 in scoring defense (51.8 ppg). The Sun Devils lead the Pac-12 in all the aforementioned categories as well as steals (10.6 spg) and are third in 3-point FG pct. defense (.281), assists (13.8 apg) and turnover margin (+2.0).
• ASU is shooting 75 percent (111-148) from the line in its last 11 games, which is nearly nine percent higher than its percentage for the season (66.2).  
• Nine of senior F/C Kali Bennett's 11 double-figure scoring efforts in 2011-12 have come in ASU's last 13 games
• Bennett, who in ASU's win against Washington (Feb. 16) set the single-game school record for most blocks (9), also owns the school's single-season record for blocked shots with 77 - old record was 55 by Kym Hampton set in 1980-81 season.
• Currently with 163 blocks this season, ASU has already broken the school's single-season record for blocked shots (134) set by the 2008-09 squad. In ASU's win over Washington (Feb. 16), the Sun Devils also broke the single-game school record for blocks (16) for the second time this season. On Dec. 6, ASU had 12 blocks against Cal State Fullerton to break the previous record of 11.
• Senior G Olivia Major is shooting 48 percent (more than 11 percent higher than season pct) from the floor (12-25) in ASU's last six games. Major had career highs in points (14) and 3-pointers (4) in last Thursday's win over Washington.
• Senior G Alex Earl is shooting 50 percent from the floor (21-42) in ASU's last eight games. Earl established a new career high in scoring (14 points) in ASU's win over Colorado on Feb. 11.
• Redshirt junior F Janae Fulcher is shooting 55 percent from the floor (12-22) in ASU's last three games and has led or tied for the team lead in scoring twice in that span - season-best 16 points at Colorado (Feb. 11) and 11 points vs. Washington State (Feb. 18).
• Freshman G Promise Amukamara, whose brother, Prince, is a member of the Super Bowl XLVI champion New York Giants, is shooting 51 percent (29-57 FGs) in ASU's last 19 games and has scored a career-best 12 points twice in that stretch. Nearly half (22 of 47) of Amukamara's rebounds this season have come on the offensive end.
• Over the last five games, Amukamara has led the Sun Devils in free throws attempted (18) and made (15).
• The Sun Devils have allowed 20 or fewer points in a half 11 times this season. The nine points scored by Colorado (Jan. 19) were the fewest ever scored by the Buffaloes in a half and tied the second-fewest number of points ever allowed by ASU in a half.
• Eight of ASU's opponents have shot below 30 percent this season while only three opponents (DePaul, California and UCLA) have shot higher than 40 percent.
• ASU has held 14 of its 26 opponents to 50 or fewer points. Since 2005-06, ASU is 58-2 when it has held the opposition to 50 or fewer points.
• The Sun Devils have given up 60 or more points only five times this season (DePaul - 73, USC - 60, UCLA - 64, Stanford - 62, California - 67).
• ASU's bench has outscored (21.9 ppg) the opposition's bench (12.8 ppg) in all but three games this season (vs. UTEP - Dec. 28, at Oregon - Jan. 14 and vs. Washington - Feb. 16).