Women’s basketball heads to Puerto Rico

ASU guard Alex Earl tries to get past UC Riverside junior guard Briauna Linton during the Sun Devils’ 66-46 win over the Highlanders. The Sun Devils travel to Puerto Rico on Thanksgiving weekend for the San Juan Shootout, where they will face Illinois and Rutgers. (Photo by Sam Rosenbaum)

Most students go home for Thanksgiving. The ASU women’s basketball team is going to Puerto Rico.

This weekend the Sun Devils (3-0) will be participating in the San Juan Shootout. In the U.S. territory, ASU will take on Illinois (2-3) and Rutgers (3-0).

Aside from a close overtime win against Colorado State, the Sun Devils have not been challenged very much this season.

Coach Joseph Anders said that the team is looking forward to the intense competition this weekend.

“The one thing that we have always tried to do here at Arizona State is to schedule tough and play NCAA caliber opponents on a neutral floor,” Anders said. “The Puerto Rico trip allows us to do be able to do just that.”

ASU’s first opponent in Puerto Rico will be Illinois. ASU will be the third Pac-12 school that the Fighting Illini have taken on this season.

Illinois has struggled so far against Pac-12 schools after losing to Oregon and Cal back-to-back.

Despite the early season struggles, the Illini look to have a promising year.

The media voted junior forward Karisma Penn to the second-team All-Big Ten last season. So far this season Penn has averaged 14 points and 7.2 boards a game.

Last year, sophomore guard Amber Moore was voted on to the Big Ten All-freshmen team. Moore has started right where she left off last year. She is third on the team in scoring averaging 10.6 points per game.

ASU then takes on the Scarlet Knights Saturday. Like ASU, Rutgers is on a three-game winning streak. They are looking to continue their success in the tournament.

Last year, the Knights made it to the NCAA tournament. They were awarded a seventh seed and advanced to the second round of the tournament.

Rutgers ended up losing in the next round to Texas A&M, the eventual winner of the tournament.

It is no surprise that the Knights have had some early success this year. They returned two of their best performers from last season.

Senior forward Chelsey Lee led the team in rebounds last season, averaging 7.5 a game.

Also the Knights returned last year’s top scorer, senior guard and forward April Sykes. Sykes averaged 14.1 points last season and has kept up the pace averaging 11 points in her last three games this season.

The Sun Devils have yet to find their top offensive threat this season. Different players have stepped up in different games.

For example, junior guard Micaela Pickens stepped up in the game against UC Riverside, senior guard Alex Earl had a strong game against Colorado State and senior forward Kimberly Brandon had an impressive game against Boston College.

The team has been just focusing on their play and will continue that focus in the tournament.

Players and coaches have stressed the fact that they want to play complete games and this tournament will be good test for to prove it.

“We play really good in the first half and lag a little bit in the second half or we play really good in the second half and don’t show up in the first half,” Earl said. “We really wanted to play a complete game before we left to go to Puerto Rico.”

The Sun Devils face a challenge this weekend. Coming back with a record of 5-0 would taste better than any Thanksgiving turkey.

 

Reach the reporter at ehubbard@asu.edu

 

 

FRIDAY’S GAME

 

Sun Devils vs. Fighting Illini

 

When: 1:00 p.m.

 

Where: San Juan, Puerto Rico

 

Illinois overview: The Illini dropped back-to-back games against Oregon and Cal, but the Pac-12 is typically one of the strongest conferences in the country. Illinois has a few playmakers that could cause problems for ASU.