ASU women’s basketball anticipates crucial Bay Area trip

After a bad loss to UA on Sunday, the ASU women’s basketball team is readying itself for possibly the biggest weekend of its season in the Bay Area.

The last time the No. 15 Sun Devils faced the teams from Northern California, they split the weekend. Jan. 17, ASU beat California 68-59 at Wells Fargo Arena. Then, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Sun Devils fell to Stanford 80-56 at home.

Coach Charli Turner Thorne said she knows the difficulty of this weekend’s series.

 
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“This will be the hardest weekend of our year, including March,” Turner Thorne said. “These are two of the elite programs in our conference, at home, and one of them (Stanford) really fired up after a loss.”

The No. 6 Cardinal (22-2, 11-1 Pac-12) are coming off their first conference loss of the season, 87-82, at the hands of the Washington Huskies.

Turner Thorne said she knows that the Cardinal will be on a mission to get back on track after their first conference loss.

“I played for (Stanford coach) Tara (VanDerveer),” Turner Thorne said. “I can only imagine what their practices are like this week.”

The first priority when playing Stanford is defending superstar senior forward Chiney Ogwumike. Ogwumike leads the Pac-12 and is third in the NCAA in scoring with 27.2 points per game and is second in the conference in rebounds with 12.3 per game, trailing only Oregon sophomore forward Jillian Alleyne.

Turner Thorne cited Ogwumike as a key factor for the game on Friday.

Sunday afternoon, the Sun Devils will play in Berkeley, Calif., against the California Golden Bears.

The No. 22 Golden Bears (16-7, 8-4 Pac-12) are coming off a weekend sweep in Washington and looking to grab second place in the conference with wins this weekend.

Cal is led by junior forward Reshanda Gray’s 16.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game this season.

Turner Thorne saw things in her team’s first game with Cal to which her team needs to respond.

“In the first matchup they ran a 2-3 zone,” Turner Thorne said. “They had not played one possession in it before our game, and they played probably two possessions since our game, so we’re ready for anything.”

With the final push of the season underway, Turner Thorne said her team will be facing everyone’s best games and it will need to respond.

“We’re getting everyone’s best effort,” Turner Thorne said. “So we are going to get their best effort at home, and that’s OK.”

Despite that fact, Turner Thorne said she believes that her team will be able to play its game Sunday.

“I think they’re a pretty good matchup for us,” Turner Thorne said. “They’re very good and it’s going to be a much tougher game. It’s going to be all about the boards and handling their top scorers and keeping them in check. It should be a great rematch.

“We’re all playing for second place and seeding in the tournament and everything,” Turner Thorne said. “There’s a lot riding on this game, and I think both teams will be very fired up.”

Reach the reporter at mtonis@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @Tonis_The_Tiger