The Arizona State women’s basketball team will open its season against Middle Tennessee State, a team that went 29-4 last season including a 15-1 mark in Conference USA play that notched them the conference championship. Despite losing All-American Ebony Rowe and five other seniors, the Lady Raiders are the preseason media pick to win the conference title again this season and look to add on to their streak of six consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.
The Sun Devils’ 2013-14 season ended in the third round of the NCAA tournament with a double-digit loss to a heavily-favored Notre Dame squad. Although All-Conference guard Deja Mann is no longer with them, this Sun Devil team looks to rely on senior leadership to help make another run into the NCAA tournament.
Keys to the Game:
Push the tempo
Although Middle Tennessee State is an extremely talented team, the loss of six seniors from the 2013-14 team cannot be overlooked. If Arizona State can get out fast in transition and get on some runs early, it could fluster the young Lady Raiders.
Feed the Amukamara Sisters
If we learned anything from watching the Maroon and Gold scrimmage last Friday, it’s that the Amukamara sisters are going to be extremely important to the success of this team. If Arizona State can get the ball to either Promise or Peace and allow them to drive inside, it could open up the defense, allowing for easy shots at the rim and kick-outs to perimeter shooters like Katie Hempen.
Shut down Olivia Jones
With the loss of senior leader Ebony Rowe to graduation, sophomore G/F Olivia Jones looks to be the leader this season. She was named Conference-USA Freshman of the Year for the 2013-14 season, averaging 8.1 points per game along with 6.9 rebounds per game. If the Sun Devils can keep Jones off balance by throwing multiple defenders at her, it will be tough for Middle Tennessee State to find their identity on offense.
The X-Factor for tonight’s game is the pair of sophomore forwards Sophie Brunner and Kelsey Moos. If the two of them can crash the boards and get into a rhythm early, Middle Tennessee State will be hard-pressed to find a response. It will be particularly interesting to see if Moos who is expected to spend more time on the perimeter this season exhibits her usual rebounding prowess.
Quotable: “They are a top team that knows how to win. They are very tough and very determined. It is going to be a 40-minute game. We are going to have to work hard on every possession. Like us, I’m sure they have some things they want to work on, but we are both very proud programs that expect to win every game and so it’s going to be a tough game.”-Charlie Turner Thorne on Middle Tennessee State (As told to thesundevils.com).
Middle Tennessee State is a very talented team coming off an exceptional season, but the loss of six seniors is reason enough to believe that they will not come close to the 29 wins they achieved last season. If Arizona State can get out in transition and finish at the basket, they should be able to open the season with a close win in Wells Fargo Arena.