Sun Devils close out Non-Conference play with home matchup against Arkansas
By Dylan Carter // Women’s Basketball Beat Writer for Blaze Sports
TEMPE, Ariz.– With just one game remaining in non conference play, the Arizona State Sun Devils (8-3) will look to bolster their record before heading into the daunting PAC-12.
They’ve won four of their last five games and hope to continue the trend against Arkansas (8-3) on Thursday afternoon at Wells Fargo Arena.
Head coach Charli Turner Thorne is no stranger to the pacing and game-plan associated with Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors. Before accepting the position with Arkansas in April, Neighbors led the Washington Huskies to four consecutive seasons of 20 wins or more.
“He’s a great coach and I believe he’s got them believing in their system,” Thorne said. “They’re playing up tempo, they’re playing dribble-drive. He is doing a lot of the same things he did at Washington.”
The guard tandem of Malica Monk and Devin Cosper should challenge the Arizona State backcourt. The duo accounts for a combined 35.5 points per game. Their dribble penetration and three-point shooting will be a huge focus of Arizona State’s defense.
Guards Courtney Ekmark and Kiara Russell have been two of the Sun Devils’ strongest wing defenders and should be heavily featured against the Razorbacks.
“They’re playing well and they’ve got their two big scorers so it’s just fun,” Thorne said. “It’s another really good challenge for our defenses.”
The Sun Devils’ scoring has begun to flourish as the rotation widens. Coming off of a career-high 19-point outing in the victory over Idaho, sophomore Jamie Ruden has emerged as the team’s second highest scorer in place of the injured Sabrina Haines. Her shifty footwork and quick jump-shot have allowed her to create many opportunities on offense, leading to her 10.1 point per game average.
Ruden has been superb from behind the arc, shooting 50 percent on three-point attempts through 11 games this season. Her deep shooting percentage far surpasses that of any of her teammates and has forced defenses to space the floor often. It’s likely that she’ll continue her breakout campaign against an Arkansas team that allows an average of 63 points per game.
ASU’s front-court, led by Kianna Ibis and Charnea Johnson-Chapman will need to attack the glass to control the game. This physical Arkansas squad averages 42.9 rebounds per contest, which is 3.5 more than ASU’s average.
They’ll hope to build off of the victory over Idaho, where they grabbed 52 rebounds including 19 offensive boards. Johnson-Chapman, who leads the team in rebounding with 7.5 per game, grabbed a career-high 12 boards in that matchup. Improving upon this performance is a major key in shutting down the Razorbacks.
The atmosphere of the Wells Fargo Arena has been a delight for the Sun Devils, who have won each of their first six games at home to begin the season. They haven’t lost in Tempe since February and did not lose a single non-conference game at home last season. Arkansas, on the other hand, has struggled on the road to begin the year, winning just one of their first four away games thus far.
The matchup will tip off at 2 P.M. MT and can be heard on Blaze Sports Mixlr with Sam Brennan and Collin Terlecki on the call.
Dylan Carter is a beat writer for Blaze Sports covering ASU Women’s Basketball. You can reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow Dylan on Twitter @DylanHCarter .