Women's basketball hosts final two home games
The Arizona State women's basketball team closes out the home portion of its 2011-12 schedule this week when it hosts Washington (Thursday at 6:30 p.m. MT) and Washington State (Saturday at 2 p.m. MT). This week's games will be the final at home for Sun Devil seniors Kali Bennett, Kimberly Brandon, Alex Earl, Olivia Major and Haley Parsons, who will be honored in a ceremony following Saturday's game against the Cougars.
After splitting on the road last week (lost at Utah, 50-56 and won at Colorado, 60-47) the Sun Devils (16-8, 7-6 Pac-12) enter this week's games in a three-way tie for fourth place with USC (13-11, 7-6) and UCLA (12-12, 7-6) in the Pac-12 standings. All three teams trail third-place Oregon State (17-7, 8-5) by one game and second-place Cal (18-7, 9-4) by two games with five left to play.
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 the Sun Devils bounced back with Saturday's win at Colorado.
Janae Fulcher (16 points) and Earl (career-high 14 points) came off the bench to combine for 30 points to help propel ASU on Saturday. Bennett added 10 points for the Sun Devils, who came through with another solid defensive effort as they held Colorado more than 16 points below its scoring average.
Both of this week's games will be rematches of contests in which ASU was victorious -- 63-46 win at Washington State (Jan. 26) and 57-53 win at Washington (Jan. 28). Leading the way for ASU in the two wins was Brandon, who averaged 16.5 points and 8.5 rebounds while connecting on 54 percent of her shots (14-26). Against WSU, the Sun Devils used a 22-5 run in the second half to turn a slight 29-26 lead into a commanding 51-31 advantage with 8:44 left in the game. Bennett (eight points, 4-4 FGs) and Brandon (eight points, 3-4 FGs) combined to score 16 points in the second half while Fulcher (seven points) and
Promise Amukamara (seven points) came off the bench to combine for 14 points in the second half.
Two days later at Washington, it was Deja Mann who came through in the clutch as the junior guard scored seven of her 12 points in the final 4:30 while Brandon hit a pair of free throws with eight seconds left to help the Sun Devils preserve the win.
Washington (13-10, 5-8 Pac-12) has split its last four contests since it last played ASU. Five of the Huskies' eight conference losses have been by six points or less, including their most recent setback, a 78-73 loss at home to Oregon State on Saturday. The Huskies are led by freshman guard Jazmine Davis (16.0 ppg, 4th in Pac-12) and senior post Regina Rogers (15.9 ppg, 6th in Pac-12/.605 FG pct - 4th in the nation).
Thursday's game vs. Washington can be heard live on The Fan AM 1060. Coverage will begin at 6 p.m. 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. He will be joined by former Sun Devil head coach Maura McHugh.
Fox Sports Arizona will also be carrying a live webcast of Thursday's game at www.foxsportsarizona.com.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
• While all-time series with Washington is tied at 27-27, the Sun Devils have dominated of late having won 16 of the last 19 meetings, including 14 of the last 15. In 2010 the Huskies snapped a 10-game losing streak to the Sun Devils with a 62-56 victory in Seattle before the Sun Devils won the rematch in Tempe, 67-61 (OT). Last season the Sun Devils won both meetings -- 52-49 in Tempe and 71-63 in Seattle and then were once again victorious last month in Seattle, 57-53.
• As of Feb. 12, ASU is ranked No.13 in the nation in blocked shots per game (5.8), No. 14 in FG pct. defense (.343) and No. 16 in scoring defense (52.7 ppg). The Sun Devils lead the Pac-12 in FG pct. defense and scoring defense, are second in blocks, steals (10.5 spg) and turnover margin (+1.7) and are third in 3-point FG pct. defense (.283) and assists (13.8 apg).
• ASU is shooting 78 percent (99-127) from the line in its last nine games, which is more than 11 percent higher than its percentage for the season (66.7).
• Senior F Kimberly Brandon averaged 15.8 points (+4.6 above her season average), 7.8 rebounds and 3.0 steals while shooting 53.8 percent (+10.3 higher than season pct.) during ASU's recent five-game winning streak. She was 5-9 (.55.6) from 3-point range and 18-22 (81.8) from the free throw line during that stretch.
• Eight of senior F/C Kali Bennett's nine double-figure scoring efforts in 2011-12 have come in ASU's last 11 games
• Bennett, who in ASU's win against Utah (Jan. 21) tied ASU's single-game record for most blocks (7), now owns the school's single-season record for blocked shots with 63 - old record was 55 by Kym Hampton set in 1980-81 season.
•Currently with 139 blocks this season, ASU has already broken the school's single-season record for blocked shots (134) set by the 2008-09 squad.
• Senior G Alex Earl is shooting 50 percent from the floor (14-28), including 47 percent (9-19) from 3-point range in ASU's last 6 games. Earl established a new career high in scoring (14 points) in ASU's win over Colorado on Saturday.
• Junior G Deja Mann has scored in double figures 5 times in ASU's last 7 games and is shooting 50 percent from 3-point range (6-12) during that stretch. Mann scored seven of her 12 points in the final 4:30 of ASU's 57-53 win at Washington (Jan. 28). She led ASU with 11 points in its loss to No. 4 Stanford (Feb. 2) and added 11 more against Cal (Feb. 4). She paced ASU with 12 points in the Sun Devils' 50-46 loss at Utah on Feb. 4.
• Freshman G Promise Amukamara, whose brother, Prince, is a member of the Super Bowl XLVI champion New York Giants, is shooting 53 percent (28-53 FGs) in ASU's last 17 games and has scored a career-best 12 points twice in that stretch. Nearly half (22 of 45) of Amukamara's rebounds this season have come on the offensive end.
• Over the last three games Amukamara has led the Sun Devils and free throws attempted (12) and made (10).
• The Sun Devils have allowed 20 or fewer points in a half nine 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.
• Six 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 12 of its 24 opponents to 50 or fewer points. Since 2005-06, ASU is 56-2 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 (23.0 ppg) the opposition's bench (13.1 ppg) in all but two games this season (vs. UTEP - Dec. 28 and at Oregon - Jan. 14).