After receiving a first-round bye, the No. 10 Arizona State Sun Devils will play their first game of the Pac-12 tournament on Friday at 12:30 MT against the California Golden Bears.
ASU will enter the tournament as the 2-seed. After their loss to UCLA last weekend, the Sun Devils were moved into a tie for first place in the Pac-12 with Oregon State, thus relinquishing the 1-seed in the tournament due to the head-to-head tiebreaker.
As for Cal, the 10-seed Golden Bears were able to beat 7-seed Utah in overtime as sophomore forward Mikayla Cowling hit a shot to go ahead of the Utes with 16.8 seconds remaining. Utah missed a three pointer at the buzzer, which would have sent it to double overtime, thus sealing the upset.
It will be the third matchup between these two teams this season, with ASU having swept both prior games.
Keys to the Game:
Second chance points
It has been a pattern this season, if the Sun Devils outscore their opponents in second chance points they win. In their last matchup against the Bears, the Sun Devils out scored the Bears 17-to-6 in that category, after both teams had shot equally from the field and behind the arch.
Not letting up
This veteran Arizona State team may get up early on Cal. They’re more experienced and more talented, so they’ll know what to expect more than Cal will. The single most important thing for them to do is to not take their foot off the gas pedal. They are going to have to continue to play hard for the whole game and not let up because Cal is a pesky team and will creep back into the game if ASU isn’t careful.
Cal has three players on their squad who average over five rebounds per game, including Pac-12 freshman of the year Kristine Anigwe, who averages 9.1 rebounds per game, good for fifth best in the conference. ASU’s Sophie Brunner and Quinn Dornstauder are going to have to make sure that they are boxing out in order to gain more second chance point opportunities and limit Anigwe’s touches.
ASU’s Katie Hempen is the X-factor in this one. The senior guard is going to be big for the Sun Devils in their first game of the postseason. She has been in situations like this before and seems to always be there when her team needs her on both the offensive and defensive ends. In order to avoid an upset, Hempen will need to find her shot early on.
While there is no doubt that Cal is a talented team, ASU has too much experience to drop out in their first game of the tournament. It may be close in the first quarter, but Hempen and senior point guard Elisha Davis will take over this game with their scoring abilities and tenacious defense.