March 2, 2012
The Arizona State women's basketball team closes out the regular season portion of its 2011-12 schedule on Saturday (2 p.m. MT) when it travels to Tucson to take on Arizona in round 2 of the State Farm Territorial Cup Series.
In addition to playing for the State Farm Territorial Cup, ASU could also be playing for a first-round bye in next week's Pac-12 Tournament depending on what else transpires in league play on Saturday. Entering Saturday's game, the Sun Devils (18-10, 9-8 Pac-12) are in a three-way tie for fourth place with Oregon State (18,10, 9-8) and UCLA (14-14, 9-8). The top four teams in the final regular season standings will get a first round bye in the tournament and won't begin play until Thursday while the other eight teams will begin play on Wednesday. The Sun Devils can claim the fourth and final bye with a win on Saturday coupled with losses by both Oregon State (at Colorado on Saturday) and UCLA (at Washington on Saturday).
On Saturday, ASU will be looking to regain the momentum it had prior to last week when it was on a three-game winning streak before being knocked off in consecutive games at UCLA (53-38 on Feb. 23) and at USC (59-53 on Feb. 25).
Janae Fulcher scored 16 points at UCLA to pace the short-handed Sun Devils, who were without starters Olivia Major (shoulder) and leading scorer Kimberly Brandon (illness). ASU led by as many as 12 in the first half, but the Bruins began the second half on a 17-6 run and closed the game on an 11-3 run to clinch the win. Two days later at USC, the Trojans closed the game with a 14-8 run to pull away after the two teams were tied at 45-45 with 2:48 left. Deja Mann scored a career-high 22 points for the Sun Devils as the junior guard personally accounted for 14 of ASU's 29 second-half points.
Saturday's game is a rematch of ASU's 60-45 win in Tempe on New Year's Eve. Brandon and Micaela Pickens each scored 13 points to pace ASU, which used an 11-0 run in the second half to take control of the game after trailing 26-25 at the half. As a team, the Sun Devils had 19 assists and only 10 turnovers. ASU also outrebounded Arizona 46-33, including 18-5 on the offensive glass, which led to an 11-2 advantage in second-chance points.
Arizona (14-15, 3-14 Pac-12) has lost 11 of its last 12 contests coming into Saturday's game. Five of the Wildcats' Pac-12 losses have been by six or fewer points with two of those contests going to overtime (vs. Utah and vs. Cal).
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. ASU then bounced back with three straight wins before last week's losses at UCLA and at USC.
Saturday's game at Arizona can be heard live on The Fan AM 1060. Coverage will begin at 1:30 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.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Currently 18-10, the Sun Devils need two more victories to clinch their seventh 20-win season in the last eight years.
ASU leads the all-time series with Arizona 48-26. The Sun Devils have won 14 of the last 16 meetings. Their 11-game winning streak in the series was snapped by the Wildcats last year in Tucson, 73-61. ASU's recent dominance aside, the games between the two schools have been extremely competitive as five of the last 10 contests have been decided by eight points or less.
As of Mar. 2, ASU is No. 6 in the nation in blocked shots per game (6.0), No. 11 in scoring defense (52.1 ppg) and No. 12 in FG pct. defense (.340). ASU leads the Pac-12 lead scoring defense, blocks and steals (10.5 spg), is second in field goal pct. defense, is third in 3-point FG pct. defense (.276) and turnover margin (+1.6) and fourth in assists (13.4 apg).
Currently holding opponents to only 52.1 points per game, the Sun Devils have a chance to set the single-season conference record for fewest average points allowed per game. Stanford currently has the record (53.9 ppg), which it set in 2009-10.
Nine of senior F/C Kali Bennett's 11 double-figure scoring efforts in 2011-12 have come in ASU's last 15 games
Bennett, who in ASU's win over 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 80 - old record was 55 by Kym Hampton set in 1980-81 season.
Currently with 169 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 (and tied the Pac-12 record) for blocks (16). The 16 blocks were the most ever in a Pac-12 game (two conference teams going head to head).
Redshirt junior F Janae Fulcher has led or tied for the team lead in scoring three times in ASU's last five games - 16 points at Colorado (Feb. 11), 11 points vs. Washington State (Feb. 18), 16 points at UCLA (Feb. 23). Fulcher started her first game of the season (fifth start of her career) in place of Kimberly Brandon (out due to illness) in ASU's 53-38 loss at UCLA (Feb. 23). She also started ASU's game at USC (Feb. 25).
Junior guard Deja Mann has tallied double figures in scoring eight times this season, with six of those instances coming in ASU's last 11 games. During that 11-game stretch, Mann has been ASU's leading scorer (9.2 ppg) while shooting nearly 48 percent from 3-point range (11-23). Last Saturday, Mann scored a career-high 22 points in ASU's loss at USC.
Over the last seven games, freshman G Promise Amukamara, whose brother, Prince, is a member of the Super Bowl XLVI champion New York Giants, has led the Sun Devils in free throws attempted (18) and made (15). Nearly half (23 of 49) of Amukamara's rebounds this season have come on the offensive end.
The Sun Devils have allowed 20 or fewer points in a half 12 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 28 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 (21.1 ppg) the opposition's bench (12.7 ppg) in all but four games this season (vs. UTEP - Dec. 28, at Oregon - Jan. 14, vs. Washington - Feb. 16 and at USC, Feb. 25).