Arizona State has dominated Washington State in recent memory, winning 27 of the past 32 meetings. Given the way the season series went this year, nobody would have ever guessed that. The Cougars swept the Sun Devils in dominating fashion, picking up a 77-65 win in Pullman, and prevailing 54-43 in Tempe. However, head coach Charli Turner Thorne said after the USC game that the team should be eager to get another crack at the Cougars in tournament play.
Coming off the heels of a 67-60 loss to USC on Senior Day, the Sun Devils know where they need to improve. Beyond the arc, they were just 2-21. Not only is that a poor shooting percentage, but also an indicator the team needs to get back to basics and develop a more consistent low-post offense. ASU is not built to attempt 20-plus 3-pointers a game.
In the teams’ first meeting in Pullman, forwards Joy Burke and Janae Fulcher combined for 37 points. Yet, in their second game against WSU, the Sun Devils settled for outside shots, and Burke only tallied one point. Freshman guard Arnecia Hawkins did tally a career-high 18 points in that game. Tonight, if Burke and Fulcher can establish an effective low post offense early on, the Cougars will need to pack it in on defense, opening it up for perimeter scorers such as Hawkins.
An improved low post would also open up opportunities for fellow freshman Haley Videckis, who has been exceptional off the bench in the past month. However, Videckis will miss the tournament due to a death in the family, leaving the Sun Devils somewhat short-handed.
For Washington State, it’s Lia Galdeira or bust. The freshman from Hawaii averages 14.7 ppg, and scored 20 points en route to the Cougars victory at Wells Fargo Arena last month. If Galdeira is able to split the defense and attack the paint consistently tonight, the Sun Devils will have a tough time pulling this one out. They must make her one-dimensional on offense.
Pick: Arizona State 62-58: Judging by the season series alone, there’s no reason to believe the Sun Devils can pull out the victory tonight. But there’s a reason they have won 27 of the last 32 games against the Cougars. Talent-wise, ASU has the overall advantage in this contest. Can they put it all together though for a must-win game tonight? My bet is they can. If they commit to the low-post offense from the get go, the Cougars don’t have the depth to match them inside. Behind senior Janae Fulcher and Joy Burke in the paint, Arizona State will advance to play the top-seeded Stanford Cardinal tomorrow night.