No. 19 ASU basketball returns home to host their first Pac-12 series of the season as two top-25 ranked teams in Stanford and Cal come to Tempe.
After winning two out of three games on their road trip, No. 19 Sun Devils basketball has started conference play with two hard-fought victories over Utah and Colorado with their one loss coming to the hands of the University of Arizona.
This weekend the No. 6 team in the nation, the Stanford Cardinal, and the No. 24 team, the California Golden Bears, will come to town posing as big challenges for this ASU team.
Along with Stanford, Cal and ASU, there are two other teams in the Pac-12 that are ranked top-25 nationally (Oregon No. 5, Oregon State No. 10). The Pac-12 is arguably the best conference in women’s basketball and Sun Devil’s coach Charli Turner Thorne knows that this conference schedule will be difficult.
“This hands down is the best conference in the country and there is not going to be an easy game,” Turner Thorne said.
The games last weekend surely fit this statement by coach Turner Thorne as both of them were decided by six or fewer points and this weekend’s games will only be more challenging.
The first opponent that ASU will have to try to take down is No. 6 ranked giant Stanford. The Cardinal are 12-1 on the season and their only loss came at No. 14 Gonzaga. Since that game they have won six straight including over No. 4 Baylor and No. 13 Tennessee.
The Cardinal is one of the best teams in the country and has some incredible talent. The Cardinal’s offense ranks No. 22 in all of Division 1 in scoring averaging 80.5 points a game.
A big component of that is their three-point shooting. As a team the Cardinal average 9.9 made threes a game which is 12th in D-1.
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Stanford’s offense comes from a variety of players. Three of them stand above the rest and are the only ones who average double-digits. Alanna Smith, Kiana Williams and DiJonai Carrington each average more than 10 points a game with 19.3, 14.3 and 12.7 respectively.
The 6’4″ forward senior, Smith, is one of the top players in the country. She is currently 34th in the nation with her 19.3 points a game and has recently made the Wooden Award midseason top-25 watch list.
Smith is a well-rounded player who causes problems for any opponent.
The forward has amazing scoring ability shooting 54.5% from the field and an outrageous 47.9% from the three. That is good enough for the 12th best three-point percentage in the country and she is doing it as a big.
This high scoring offense will be a real test for this Sun Devils team. ASU is currently ranked 14th in the nation in scoring defense only allowing an average of 54.1 points per contest.
The goal for the Sun Devils will be to slow down Stanford’s three top scorers. If you can hold those three to under what they usually average, and make the other players around them score then there is a chance to beat Stanford.
Stanford lost one of its starters this past Friday. Junior forward Nadia Fingall is done for the season after tearing her ACL in the game against USC.
Fingall had been the team’s fifth leading scorer and had started every game up until that point. In her absence that means it is one less threat that ASU will have to worry about.
The keys to the game for Stanford will to get their big guns rolling early and often and try to jump out of the gates fast.
For Arizona State they will need to take care of the ball and execute. It will be hard to try to keep up with Stanford’s scoring. They don’t need to help them by giving them extra possessions.
The Golden Bears will have to take on the Arizona Wildcats on Friday before they head to Tempe to face the Sun Devils on Sunday.
Cal comes into this weekend with a 10-3 record but on a shaky path these past couple weeks. The Golden Bears had lost three in a row to No. 3 Connecticut, Harvard and UCLA before defeating USC at home to finally snap the three-game losing skid.
Despite the rough recent stretch, this Cal team is still very talented and deserves to be ranked No. 24 in the nation. A big key to Cal’s game is Kristine Anigwe. The 6’4″ senior center is literally the center piece to this team and their best player.
Cal starts three point guards to go along with Anigwe and it benefits her. The floor is able to be more spaced out and she has more room to operate around the rim.
Anigwe is leading Cal to an impressive season, but she is also shining individually. She has recently been named to the Wooden Award midseason top-25 watch list and is currently predicted to go in the top 10 of this upcoming WNBA draft.
The Cal star is a beast scoring the ball and also on the glass. She leads her team in both categories and is ninth in the country in scoring with 22.1 points a game and first in rebounding, pulling in a whopping 13.9 rebounds per game.
For Arizona State the game plan will be very simple, stop Anigwe. Executing that game plan on the other hand is nearly impossible.
A positive for ASU is the fact that as a team they are very good at rebounding. They out-rebound their opponents by an average of 9.5 boards a game. That is good enough to be tied for 14th in the nation in rebounding margin.
The Sun Devils are coming up against two of the top players in the country this season in Smith and Anigwe. Both stand 6’4″, both are dominant inside the paint and can also shoot the three at a high rate, and both are going to put up a good fight in Tempe.
This weekend will be a real test for the No. 19 Sun Devils and will really show what this team is built for and how far they can make a run come March.
All quotes in this article were obtained firsthand by Devils in Detail unless otherwise noted.