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ASU Women’s Basketball: ASU prepares to take on a much improved Utah team

(Photo: Brooke Faber/WCSN)

After a dominant victory over Colorado, No. 10 Arizona State will face off against a hot Utah team at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe on Sunday.

The Sun Devils (14-3, 5-0 Pac-12) are winners of their last 11 games, including the blowout of Colorado on Friday. In that game, Quinn Dornstauder put up a double-double and the Sun Devils led for all but two minutes.

ASU’s performance was made even more impressive when it was revealed by head coach Charli Turner Thorne that star Sophie Brunner had been “very sick” throughout the game. Brunner was reportedly on anti-nausea medication and needed an IV before the game, but was still able to score eight points on 4-for-4 shooting and pull down six rebounds.

As for Utah (12-4, 4-1 Pac-12), they have been playing extremely well as of late. The Utes have improved immensely from a season ago, winning seven of their last eight with the only blemish coming in a loss to No. 11 Stanford. It’s Utah’s best start in league play since 2008 when it started 5-0 in the Mountain West.

Keys to the Game:

Perimeter scoring

Utah possesses one of the top post players in the conference in 6-foot-6 Emily Potter. Potter is in the Pac-12’s top 10 for scoring (16.8 per game), she’s second for rebounding (11.6 per game), and is one of the conference’s best shot blockers (2.56 per game). With such a tall player anchoring the inside it will be tougher for Dornstauder and Brunner to get going, so perimeter threats like Katie Hempen and Arnecia Hawkins will need get the scoring going early to alleviate some of the pressure.

Pressure the ball

Utah has not done a good job taking care of the ball this season. In fact, the Utes are dead last in turnover margin, surrendering just over six more turnovers per game than they are able to acquire. Turner Thorne’s Arizona State teams are built around the philosophy that defense comes before everything, so this shouldn’t be a problem for the Sun Devils. If ASU can get takeaways and continue to hound the ball handler for 40 minutes, it’ll put a major dent in Utah’s game plan.

Limit the fouls

Utah is one of the most efficient teams in the Pac-12 from the free throw line. The Utes shoot 73.7 percent from the charity stripe, so it will be essential for ASU to keep them off of the line and force them to get buckets the old fashioned way.

X-Factor:

In this matchup, the X-factor is 6-foot-6 Utah center Emily Potter. Because Brunner and Dornstauder are ASU’s top two scorers and rebounders, Potter’s ability to contain them will be vital to Utah’s chances of pulling off the upset. Potter is extremely talented and has plenty of size to go with it, so she is who will make or break this game.

Prediction:

Despite Utah’s hot streak and improved play from a season ago, they aren’t quite where they need to be to compete with one of the most talented ASU teams in recent memory. The Sun Devils should be able to get by this game with a 10-point victory.

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