ASU women's basketball looking forward to early season test against Baylor

The Sun Devils are ready for the 'Showdown on the Rez' this evening

Tonight,  the "Showdown on the Rez" brings the ASU women's basketball team and Baylor to BeeHoldzil Fighting Scouts Events Center and the Navajo Reservation in Fort Defiance for what head coach Charli Turner Thorne describes as a special and powerful event for women’s basketball.

No. 23 ASU (1-0) is playing against the No. 4 Lady Bears (2-0) in a matchup that is being broadcasted on ESPN2, and Turner Thorne believes the event itself helps make it a more compelling storyline. 

“Let’s face it, in women’s basketball, we need storylines,” Turner Thorne said. “We don’t necessarily just sell ourselves, even though it is two top teams playing.”

Although ASU had a 38-point win against Incarnate Word in its season-opening game, the team thought of the game as a loss due to the overall performance. Redshirt senior forward Courtney Ekmark said she and her teammates might have been too excited for the season to start.

Turner Thorne knows playing against Baylor will be a challenge. She mentioned how special Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey is, and how much talent the Lady Bears have, including junior forward Lauren Cox and senior center Kalani Brown.

“It is going to be a team effort on both Cox and Brown … they are just so good,” Turner Thorne said. "I don’t know if you completely shut Brown and Cox down, but you just try to work hard and minimize what they can do.”

Before Sunday night's game, ASU senior forward Kianna Ibis said it was important to learn the tendencies of Cox and Brown. 

Although the team locked into its scout-specific skills, Ibis realizes that won’t always help to stop All-American caliber players. Ibis emphasized that it comes down to execution and aspects she and her teammates can control, including effort and positioning.

Nonetheless, Ibis can’t wait until tip off. 

“We have been hearing about this game even since last season,” Ibis said. “Now that it is finally here, we are really excited.”

With this high-profile matchup, Ekmark knows the importance of not letting emotions become a burden within the game. During a game, Ekmark focuses on helping her teammates.

She somewhat compared her mindset to Navy Seal training, and Ekmark can also relate her life as a law student to her approach to playing Division I basketball, including a game against an elite Baylor program. 

Ekmark takes hard work, discipline and time management into her training and preparation, and all of that time and focus will go into Sunday's primetime matchup with Baylor.

“I have a strong faith, so I do my best and let God do the rest," Ekmark said.  "I have a saying: ‘Too blessed to be stressed.’ I literally just try my best, and whatever happens, happens.”

Reach the reporter at or follow @NATE_HIATT on Twitter.

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