With the graduation of Stanford star Chiney Ogwumike to the WNBA, many saw this season of Pacific-12 Conference women’s basketball as the one where a new team would dethrone the 14-time defending champion Cardinal. Arizona State will see the new prime ticket at 2 p.m. Saturday, when the Sun Devils (11-1) host Washington (11-1) and Kelsey Plum, the 5-foot-8 sophomore guard who is leading the nation in scoring at 26.6 points per game.
ASU was ranked No. 22 in the AP Poll when it was released Monday, but it was tied with Seton Hall (12-1) atop of the also receiving votes category in Tuesday’s Coaches’ Poll, likely a direct result of previously-unranked Washington’s home win over then-No. 5 Texas A&M Monday, 70-49. The Huskies moved up to No. 23.
Plum scored 32 points against the Aggies and moved past the 1,000-point milestone for her career. She scored 45 in the Huskies’ only loss this season to Oklahoma (90-80), and the team has now won 11 consecutively for the first time since 1990. The Sun Devils have also been rolling, picking up their seventh-straight win, 69-51 over Yale Sunday, and they’ve been untouchable at home (7-0), with Northwestern’s 13-point loss being the closest margin.
“I think our individual and team defense needs to be retooled for sure heading into conference, but it’s all things we can do,” ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne said after the Yale win. “We need to be more consistent. I think our individual offense was rusty but we’ve been saying all preseason that our team offense is definitely not peaking yet, we need to get better at moving the ball and spacing. When we don’t move the ball, we settle and take quick shots, these are things we need to be more disciplined when we play tough teams.”
The game with Yale was special for Turner Thorne because it reunited her with Bulldogs’ coach Chris Gobrecht, who hired her as a graduate assistant at Washington in the late 1980s.
“The thing about Chris’ teams is they’re always going to be tough, you’re not going to get the 40-point win, you might get the 20-point win, they work hard defensively,” Turner Thorne said. “I owe Chris, she started my coaching career, I had such a great experience, I learned so much.”
ASU and Washington are at the top of the Pac-12 standings following the non-league swing of the season, No. 13 Oregon State (10-1) lost its first game of the season to Tennessee this weekend, Stanford (8-4) is still No. 15 and defeated No. 2 Connecticut, and California (6-3) and Washington State (9-2) are in the national rankings conversation.
“It’s a battle, we don’t just play once, we play some of them twice,” said ASU guard Promise Amukamara, who scored a game-high 15 points Sunday.
Besides Plum, 5-foot-7 senior guard Jazmine Davis is scoring 15.1 and dishing 5.5 assists for the Huskies, 6-foot-2 junior forward Talia Walton is posting 13.1 points and 5.8 rebounds, and 6-foot senior forward Aminah Williams adds 9.7 points and 9.8 rebounds, which are fourth-most in the Pac-12. Sophomore forward Chantel Osahor of Phoenix’s St. Mary’s High School is second on the team with seven rebounds per game and scores 4.8 points.
“We have to fight hard in conference, and all of these games prepare us for a good conference,” ASU center Quinn Dornstauder said Sunday after a double-double.
ARIZONA WILDCATS UPDATE
Candice Warthen scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds during the Wildcats’ 61-56 home win over Tennessee-Martin Monday. Arizona (7-4) opens its conference schedule Saturday at home against the WSU Cougars (9-2), who haven’t played since beating Loyola Marymount Dec. 22 and have a win over Maryland under their belts.
AROUND THE NATION
Outside of the power conferences at the beginning of the league season, there are a number of teams that have put together impressive win totals, including: Princeton (15-0), Akron (10-1), Long Beach State (12-1), James Madison (9-2), Western Kentucky (11-2), Youngstown State (11-1), Quinnipiac (10-3), Indiana State (10-1), South Dakota (10-3), and Chattanooga (11-3, with wins over Stanford and Tennessee). Boise State, Colorado State and Fresno State are all 8-3 atop the Mountain West, George Washington (10-2) and St. Bonaventure (10-3) lead the Atlantic-10, and following UConn in the American are Tulane (10-2), South Florida (10-3) and East Carolina (9-3).