The 69-46 win over CSUN Monday means the end of the non-conference portion of the schedule for the Arizona State women’s basketball team, with the No. 17 Sun Devils going 9-3 with two wins over ranked opponents (Syracuse and Florida State). Two of the losses were to Kentucky and South Carolina, each currently undefeated and No. 2 and No. 7 in the nation, while starters Sophie Brunner and Kelsey Moos have missed several games to injury.
“This year we had a harder preconference schedule and lost two starters for four games, so considering that I love where we are,” ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne said when asked to compare this season’s start to last year’s opening 18-1 record. “A lot of the time, we roll through the wins, and you don’t grow. We figured some things out sooner rather than later, and that is going to help us. Some people figured things out quicker had they would if Sophie and Kelsey did not get hurt.”
Senior guard Arnecia Hawkins was named Pacific-12 Player of the Week Monday and scored 18 versus the Matadors. At 10 points per game, she is third on the team behind Brunner and Quinn Dornstauder, who are both at 11.2.
“We know each of us is capable of scoring, so our goal is to not let the other team score,” Hawkins said. “We want every person taking their best shots. There’s a lot to be prepared for. The bottom line is it’s about us.”
The Pacific-12 season begins at 5 p.m. Saturday versus No. 19 California. The Golden Bears are 8-2 and host the same Matadors team that ASU played Monday at 7 p.m. Wednesday, their final non-league opponent. California is coming off back-to-back overtime wins over Nebraska (87-80) and UCLA (108-104 in 2OT), which did not count as a Pac-12 game. Prior to those, the Bears ran with Sacramento State to a 117-99 shootout, and defeated then-No. 8 Louisville (now 7-5). The two losses were to then-No. 9 Texas A&M by 17 and to St. Mary’s (10-3) by one point in the Cal Tournament at Berkeley, which should make even with the Sun Devils’ loss to VCU (10-2) in the ASU Classic. Freshman Kristine Anigwe, at 6-feet-4, is scoring 21. 4 points and grabbing 9.4 rebounds, while shooting nearly 60 percent for the Golden Bears.
Both undefeated, USC (11-0) and Oregon (10-0) sit atop the conference standings. The Trojans, allowing only 49 points per game, beat West Virginia by 11 in overtime in its only game versus a power conference opponent. It defeated Gonzaga 60-56 in its next game. The Ducks are scoring 88 per game and began the season with a 79-77 upset at North Carolina. Jillian Alleyne is fourth in Division I with 13.8 rebounds per game (about two below Jonquel Jones of George Washington), while Maite Cazorla is fifth in assists at 7.1 (Baylor’s Niya Johnson is dishing 10.5).
Kelsey Plum of Washington is leading the nation with 27.6 points per game, three ahead of Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell. Despite being slaughtered by 45 and 35 at Washington and USC, Santa Clara (11-2) won at Stanford, 61-58, one of the biggest upsets of the year so far. The Arizona Wildcats are 8-3 and play their final non-league game at home versus George Mason at 2 p.m. Tuesday.
“If one person gets beat, then we all get beat,” ASU senior guard Katie Hempen said. “We have people who come off the bench who can score and play defense. That’s what everybody does, is do their job. We’re gearing up for going in the boxing ring, every game is going to be a fight. Since I’ve been here, the Pac-12 hasn’t been this good, eight of the 12 teams are in the top 30. It helps recruiting because we have one of the most competitive conferences out there.”