In what some would say is the greatest test for the Sun Devils this year, Arizona State takes on the Stanford Cardinal in California for their first of two matchups this season. Although Arizona State has lost 16 straight games against Stanford, there’s reason to believe that this year they could break that streak.
ASU comes in ranked 13th in the AP poll, just two spots behind the 11th ranked Cardinal, and in the midst of a 12 game winning streak, pummeling both out of conference and Pac-12 opponents alike. Stanford started the season with an upset win over Connecticut, but then went 4-4 in the eight games that followed, losing to both ranked and unranked opponents in that stretch.
The Cardinal have gone on a seven game winning streak since then, but they haven’t been the dominating power they were in previous years.
Stanford lost a huge presence in the paint in Chiney Ogwumike, who averaged 26.1 points and 12.1 rebounds per game which gives ASU a slight advantage in tonight’s game. With the up and commence of Sophie Brunner all season and Quinn Dornstauder as of late, ASU’s post play has drastically improved from last season. This is just one of many factors that could potentially lead to an ASU victory tonight.
Keys to the Game
-Score from the Arch When the Sun Devils are sinking threes, they’re nearly impossible to stop. Katie Hempen has been excellent from the three point line, already scoring 114 points from there this season and if ASU is to pull off the upset they need to continue to shoot from beyond the perimeter. If the Sun Devils are able to establish a threat from outside the paint, it will make it so the Cardinal defense has to cover more ground, leaving areas in the paint for Sophie Brunner and Quinn Dornstauder to post up and get open for easy layups.
-Slow down Lili Thompson
Stanford doesn’t have an all-around dominant player like they did last year with Chiney Ogwumike, but when Lili Thompson is able to get into a groove Stanford has a big advantage. Promise Amukamara will most likely be granted the task of guarding Thompson throughout the game, and if she is successful at keeping Thompson at bay throughout the game, it will disrupt Stanford’s offense and cause them to panic and make bad decisions, leading to turnovers for ASU to capitalize on.
-More Rebounds, Less Turnovers
ASU needs to give Stanford minimal chances to score, and in order to that they need to have secure ball movement and not try to force any passes. Additionally they need to rebound well on defense to eliminate second chance opportunities for the Cardinal. A team like Stanford stays at a consistently high level because they are great at the fundamentals, ASU won’t be able to match them in all categories, but specifying and excelling in rebounds and turnovers could be a big key to winning this game.
With Stanford slightly down and ASU off to their best start in program history this seems like it could be the year where the Sun Devils breaks their losing streak against the Cardinal, however it will not be tonight.
Both teams are coming into the game streaking, and Stanford finally looks like they are fully coming together. It would be extremely tough for ASU to go into Maples Pavilion and pull off the upset. That isn’t to say it isn’t going to be close—perhaps even overtime, but Stanford will squeak out of this one and improve to 14-4 overall.