ASU women’s basketball begins Territorial Cup weekend with a pair of games against Arizona after splitting last year’s season series.
Arizona State returns home Friday to begin a home-and-home Territorial Cup series against the Arizona Wildcats.
The Sun Devils are coming off a frustrating Los Angeles road trip in which they lost by 15 to USC and battled back to fall short against UCLA by eight.
Arizona State got off to a good start in both games leading after the first quarter, but the Sun Devils weren’t able to keep their consistency going.
In the first game of last weekend against the Trojans, the Sun Devils struggled to stop USC’s balanced attack as four of the five starters finished in double digits with two scoring more than 20 points.
Courtney Ekmark was the leading scorer for the Sun Devils with 17 points including shooting 5-of-6 from 3-point range. Johnson-Chapman was the only other Sun Devils to reach double-figures with 12 points.
Both teams shot about the same with the Trojans shooting 51 percent and ASU shooting 49 percent, but USC shot 9-of-18 from behind the arc proving to be the difference.
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In the second game against UCLA, the Sun Devils started strong but lost guard Kiara Russell in the second quarter with an injury causing head coach Charli Turner Thorne to shorten her rotation.
Despite being short-handed as well as trailing by as many as 12 points, the Sun Devils pulled within one possession numerous times in the fourth quarter, but came up empty-handed.
UCLA’s star senior-tandem, guard Jordin Canada and center Monique Billings, took over the game in the fourth quarter to hold off the Sun Devils. Canada and Billings combined for 30 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds.
The Sun Devils now transition to face Arizona for two games this weekend as Arizona State ends the regular season without leaving the state.
Arizona is in a transition year under second-year head coach Adia Barnes with the Wildcats having multiple transfer sitting out this season as well as a top-15 recruiting class coming in next season.
The Wildcats are 6-19 overall and 2-12 in Pac-12 play with their only conference wins coming against Colorado and Washington.
Senior guard JaLea Bennett and freshman forward Sam Thomas are the two most productive Wildcats. Bennett averages 14.5 points per game and 4.4 rebounds while Thomas averages 10.2 points per game and 7.7 rebounds per game.
The Sun Devils should have their way in both of these games as Arizona has the lowest scoring offense in the Pac-12 (59.8 points per game) and third worst scoring defense (70.5 points per game allowed).
It could be tough sledding for Arizona as it’ll be the lowest scoring offense in the Pac-12 against the conference’s best defense in ASU who allow 57.9 points per game.
For Arizona State, it’s key to win the battle on the boards as the Sun Devils have a strong record when winning the rebound battle.
ASU will look to claim two wins this weekend and gain some ground on Oregon State for fourth place in the Pac-12 standings and an elusive first-round bye in the Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament.
Tip off Friday of Arizona-Arizona State is at 7 p.m. MT with the game televised on Pac-12 Arizona. Sunday’s tip off in Tucson is at 4 p.m. MT and it can be seen on Pac-12 Network.