(Photo: Tyler Rittenhouse/WCSN)
After successfully defending its home court with two wins over AP Top-25 ranked opponents, No. 18 ASU women’s basketball will head on the road to defend its undefeated Pac-12 record in the state of Oregon.
It has been over a month since ASU last lost at the hands of No. 4 Florida State, who currently sits at an undefeated record of 17-0 on the season.
Since the loss, the Sun Devils have won six straights games — including four conference games — to propel the team to No. 18 in the country.
With the trip to Oregon, ASU will have yet another difficult weekend as it will face off against two of the best atmospheres in the Pac-12 conference.
“Two hard games cause they’re on the road, these will definitely be the most hostile crowds. Oregon and Oregon state are usually the biggest crowds to play in front of,” ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne said.
After going undefeated in the month of December, No. 22 Oregon State dropped its last two games in a trip to Los Angeles as they fell to USC and UCLA.
The three-time reigning Pac-12 champions will look to use their homecourt advantage at Gil Coliseum to come out on top over the Sun Devils. The Beavers have won 36 of the last 38 conference games on their home floor.
“Another top ten team on the road and that’s a fun opportunity. Oregon State is going to be incredibly fired up,” Turner Thorne said. “They’re always a great defensive team, very disciplined very good rebounding team, and they shoot well and execute.”
ASU will be looking to hand Oregon State its third straight loss, something that has not happened since January 5, 2015.
The Sun Devils will primarily be tasked with stopping Marie Gülich of Oregon State.
The six-foot-five-inch senior from Germany has been a dominant force on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball, shooting 74.4 percent from the field in her last four games while averaging 3.1 blocks per games. She’s achieved seven blocks twice on the season.
ASU will need to stop the senior center while also attempting to defend the perimeter of a team that shoots exceptionally well. The Beavers enter the game second in the nation in three-point percentage and third in field goal percentage.
“Gülich has continued to become on the watch list and she has developed incredibly well,” Turner Thorne said. “They’re very similar to Stanford, they’re tough, disciplined, efficient, a great half court team but they shoot it better.”
As for the Oregon Ducks, the Sun Devils be tasked with stopping a trio of key players in the form of Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard, and Maite Cazorla. The trio averages a combined 45.7 points per game for the Ducks and is crucial for the team’s success.
“I think they have their big three in Ionescu, Hebard, and Cazorla,” Turner Thorne said. “Their backcourt is tremendous, I think containing them, not allowing them to create for themselves or others. Not easy to contain them, but if you can give yourself a chance to hold them below their average of 86 points.”
The star of the three, Ionescu, enters the game with the school record in career triple doubles with eight, including four this season. The sophomore guard averages 18.6 points per game as well as 7+ rebounds and assists.
While Ionescu ultimately decided to play under head coach Kelly Graves at Oregon, she was recruited early on in the recruiting process by Turner Thorne.
“I think everybody knew she was a real talent, we recruited her early, but we could tell she wasn’t going to make a decision early so we kind of moved on with other players,” Turner Thorne said. “She’s really the total package. She’s smart, tough, she can pass, score, rebound, she’s doing a great job for them.”
With Oregon entering the game ranked No. 8, the Sun Devils will be up against a tough test but will look to last year’s victory over the Ducks as a point of not getting too “in awe” of a team.
“For the most part it’s the same team so I think that gives our team a sense of we’ve locked them down before and we can lock them down again.” Turner Thorne said. “We aren’t in awe of anybody and there isn’t anything this team hasn’t seen.”
Tipoff between Oregon State and ASU is set for Friday, Jan. 12, at 7 p.m. MST, and Oregon will host the Sun Devils on Sunday, Jan. 14, at 6 p.m. MST.