(Photo: Dominic Cotroneo/WCSN)
Arizona State got off to a great start in Pac-12 play by defeating No. 19 Cal on Saturday, and will look to keep that momentum going as is faces one of its biggest tests this season in No. 11 Stanford.
In the game against Cal, the No. 14 Sun Devils (10-3, 1-0 Pac-12) put on a strong defensive performance, holding the Golden Bears to 49 points and forcing 26 turnovers on the night. ASU will look to notch their third straight regular season win over Stanford after sweeping the Cardinal last season.
Meanwhile, Stanford (11-2, 1-0 Pac-12) has also had an extremely strong start to the season. The Cardinal demolished Arizona in their Pac-12 opener, as well as beating No. 13 Tennessee in December. They’ll look to build on their five-game winning streak.
Keys to the Game:
Take smart shots
Stanford leads the Pac-12 in field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to hit on just under 30 percent of their shots, so it will be vital for ASU to limit its shot attempts to only quality looks to keep its shooting percentage as high as possible. No team has scored more than 77 on the Cardinal, so applying pressure via scoring could fluster them.
The Sun Devils are one of the best teams in the Pac-12 when it comes to forcing turnovers. They boast a +4.46 turnover margin, good for second best in the conference. Not only that, but Stanford has struggled this year with a -1.15 turnover margin. Forcing turnovers and being smart with every possession will be key for ASU this game.
Stanford is possibly the biggest team that ASU will face all season with nine of the 14 players on its roster standing at least six feet tall. Due to the size of Stanford’s roster, a major burden falls on the shoulders of two of the Sun Devils’ biggest stars, Sophie Brunner and Quinn Dornstauder, to match the physicality of players like Erica McCall and Kaylee Johnson.
A season ago, Stanford’s scoring attack was a balanced one. With seniors Amber Orrange and Bonnie Samuelson on the roster, Lili Thompson was just one of the Cardinal’s many options on the offensive end. But this season, the junior point guard has asserted herself as the go-to threat. Thompson leads the team in scoring and assists, and if she can continue to perform at this high of a level throughout the season, she’ll be in contention for the Pac-12 Player of the Year. Thompson’s performance will be the difference for Stanford in this one, so it will be key for ASU to keep her contained.
If last season’s matchups between these two teams are any indication of how this game will go down, there’s no doubt this will be an entertaining showdown between two of the Pac-12’s heavyweights. Stanford has the advantage in size, but ASU has played a very tough non-conference schedule to help get it prepared for games like this. This game seems destined to go down to the wire, so the edge may go to the home team. ASU wins on a buzzer-beater, moving it to 2-0 in conference play.