March 12, 2012
The Arizona State women's basketball team begins play in the 2012 Postseason WNIT on Friday (7 p.m. PT) when it travels to Stockton, Calif., to take on the University of Pacific.
The Sun Devils (20-11, 10-8 Pac-12) are making their 13th consecutive postseason appearance following a season in which they won at least 20 games for the seventh time in eight seasons.
ASU won nine of its 11 non-conference games with the two losses coming to 2012 NCAA Tournament teams Rutgers (No. 6 seed in Kingston Region) and DePaul (No. 7 seed in Des Moines Region). The Sun Devils won their 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. ASU 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 road losses at UCLA and at USC.
The Sun Devils closed out the regular season by winning at Arizona and entered the Pac-12 Tournament as the No. 4 seed. As one of the top four finishers in conference play, ASU earned a first-round bye and met Arizona in the quarterfinals where it defeated the Wildcats 68-53. Looking to make a final push for NCAA Tournament consideration, the Sun Devils gave second-ranked Stanford one of its toughest games of the season in the Pac-12 semifinals, but came up short of the upset, falling to the Cardinal, 52-43. ASU held Stanford to several offensive lows for the season, including points (52), field goals (15), field goal percent (29.4), 3-point field goals (0), assists (7) and second half points (23).
Kali Bennett averaged 10.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.5 blocks to lead the Sun Devils in their two Pac-12 Tournament contests. Kimberly Brandon (15 points, six rebounds, three assists), Bennett (10 points, five assists and four blocks) and Jada Blackwell (11 points, six rebounds, two steals) all scored in double figures against Arizona while Bennett (10 points, four steals) and Micaela Pickens (10 points, three steals) recorded double-digit scoring totals against Stanford.
The Sun Devils held Arizona and Stanford to a combined shooting percentage of 29.5 percent in the two games, including 22.7 percent from 3-point range.
Pacific (17-13, 9-7) finished tied for third in the Big West. The Tigers advanced to the semifinals of the Big West Tournament, where they were defeated by eventual tournament champion UC Santa Barbara.
The winner of Friday's game, which will be only the second all-time meeting between ASU and Pacific (ASU won 90-65 in 1982), will play either CS Northridge (17-13) or San Diego (22-8) in the second round.
ON THE AIR
Friday's game at Pacific can be heard live on The Fan AM 1060. Pre-game coverage will begin at 6:30 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.
A live webcast of the game can be seen by clicking here.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
• The Sun Devils (20-11, 10-8 Pac-12) are making their 13th consecutive postseason appearance (eight NCAA Tournaments and five WNITs) after winning 20 games for the seventh time in eight seasons.
• This will be the fifth time ASU has participated in the Postseason WNIT. ASU began its current streak of postseason appearances with its first WNIT appearance in 2000. The Sun Devils also qualified for the WNIT in 2003, 2004 and 2010 with their best finishes coming in 2003 and 2010 when they made it to the second round.
• ASU won its only prior meeting against Pacific (90-65 in 1982).
• As of Mar. 11, ASU is No. 11 in the nation in blocked shots per game (5.8 bpg) and FG pct. defense (.339) and No. 13 in scoring defense (52.5 ppg). ASU leads the Pac-12 in scoring defense (52.5 ppg), blocks (5.8 bpg) and steals (10.6 spg), is second in FG pct. defense (.341) and turnover margin (+2.1) and is third in 3-point FG defense (.277) assists (13.4 apg).
• As of March 11, ASU was one of only six schools in the country (ASU, Baylor, UConn, Georgetown, Hampton and West Virginia) to be ranked in the top 15 in the nation in both scoring defense AND field goal percentage defense.
• Currently holding opponents to only 52.5 points per game, the Sun Devils have a chance to set the single-season Pac-12 record for fewest average points allowed per game. Stanford currently has the record (53.9 ppg), which it set in 2009-10.
• ASU has averaged only 11 turnovers in its last three contests.
• Kali Bennett (Pac-12 All-Defensive Team, Pac-12 honorable mention), Kimberly Brandon (Pac-12 honorable mention, Pac-12 defensive honorable mention) and Deja Mann (Pac-12 honorable mention, Pac-12 defensive honorable mention) were recognized by the Pac-12 earlier this month as the conference announced its annual awards for the 2011-12 season as voted on by the league's head coaches.
• Eleven of Bennett's 13 double-figure scoring efforts in 2011-12 have come in ASU's last 18 games. Bennett, who in ASU's win over Washington (Feb. 16) set the single-game school record for blocks (9), also owns the school's single-season record for blocks (87) - old record was 55 by Kym Hampton set in 1980-81.
• Currently with 181 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 eight games: 16 points at Colorado (Feb. 11), 11 points vs. Washington State (Feb. 18), 16 points at UCLA (Feb. 23).
• Junior G Deja Mann has tallied double figures in scoring eight times this season, with six of those instances coming in ASU's last 14 games. Mann scored a career-best 22 points (most by a Sun Devil this season) in ASU's loss at USC (Feb. 25).
• The Sun Devils have allowed 20 or fewer points in a half 13 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.
• Ten 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 31 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 six times this season (USC - 60, Stanford - 62, Arizona -63, UCLA - 64, , California - 67, DePaul - 73, ).
• ASU's bench has outscored the opposition's bench in all but four games this season (vs. UTEP - Dec. 28, at Oregon - Jan. 14, vs. Washington - Feb. 16 and at USC - Feb. 25).