Ducks, Sun Devils will help sort out Pac-10 race.
TEMPE, Ariz. - It was interesting before. Now, it is starting to get downright intriguing.
The mystery is not which team will win the Pac-10 Conference women's basketball regular-season championship. Unless unbeaten and third-ranked Stanford (11-0) starts showing up at the wrong arenas, the Cardinal (21-1 overall) have plucked that chicken.
But six teams - Oregon (7-4), Arizona State (7-4), Oregon State (7-4), USC (7-4), Washington (6-4) and Arizona (6-5) - are either tied or within a game of each other as the conference's countdown to its inaugural tournament on March 1-4 at McArthur Court in Eugene continues.
"You look at where you are and you look at where everyone else is," surmised Bev Smith, the Oregon coach whose team tangles with ASU at 6 tonight at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, "and you realize you're in the thick of things. If all goes well, you'll be in good position, and that is our focus."
Not in the UO viewfinder is the Ducks' schedule of five road games and just two at home to finish the regular season, or last season's 2-6 record in February, or a season road record of 3-4.
"If we want to get into the NCAA Tournament," Smith said, "we are going to have to beat teams like Arizona State."
The Sun Devils are 16-6 and one up in the season series with Oregon, 12-8 overall, after beating Oregon 86-72 on Jan. 6 at McArthur Court.
The Sun Devils have swept only one season series from Oregon (1992-93) since the two teams began playing in 1981.
"I didn't know that," ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne said, "but it doesn't really matter. Sometimes I wish things like that would spark us to a victory, but we're probably better off focusing on ourselves and what we need to do - not looking forward or backward."
Smith is taking somewhat the same approach with the Ducks, who went nearly a month between back-to-back Pac-10 wins - over Washington and Washington State on Dec. 28-30 and USC and UCLA last week.
"Going on the road has its implications," said Smith, whose program has lost 11 of its past 15 Pac-10 road games.
"But we're not looking at that," she said. "The opponents are enough to worry about. We don't need to worry about it being a road game."
Arizona State knows all about the road. The Sun Devils played their past four Pac-10 games on opponents' courts - beating UCLA, losing to USC, beating California and losing to Stanford.
"It's nice to be home," Turner Thorne said. "We've been rebounding pretty well and defending OK, but I'm not real happy with the offense."
It was that offense in early January that sank the Ducks in their own pond.
The Sun Devils shot what was then their season high of 57 percent from the field (27-of-47), including a 68 percent show (17-of-25) in the first half. They shot what continues to be season highs on three-pointers (60 percent, 6-of-10) and free throws (90 percent, 26-of-29).
Arizona State rang up a season-high 49 first-half points and four players scored in double figures en route to the win - ASU's first at McArthur Court since 1993.
"They were on a mission," said Smith, aware ASU was coming off a 77-70 loss at Oregon State two days earlier. "They took us out of our game offensively and defensively. No matter what we did, they were knocking down their shots."
Shaquala Williams, the UO junior guard, had a career-high-equaling 31 points in that loss to the Sun Devils, but the Ducks' other starting guards - Jamie Craighead and Alissa Edwards - were scoreless.
Turner Thorne is wary of that happening again.
Earlier this season, the Ducks banked heavily on their perimeter players. Now, with the development of Cathrine Kraayeveld, a sophomore averaging more than 10 points and nearly 10 rebounds in Pac-10 games, and Andrea Bills, a freshman averaging eight points, six rebounds and shooting 54 percent from the field, they have an inside presence.
"Oregon can hurt you from any position," the ASU coach said. "They just didn't have one of their better games against us the last time."
While the ASU offense has sputtered lately (Stanford held the Sun Devils to a season-low 48 points, and in the past two games they averaged 52 points - more than 16 below average), the defense has held.
The Sun Devils lead the Pac-10 in scoring defense (58.0), three-point percentage defense (.301) and rebounding defense (32.9).
OREGON AT ARIZONA STATE
OREGON (12-8, 7-4) STARTERS
C. Kraayeveld, 6-3 So. (8.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg)
Andrea Bills, 6-3 Fr. (6.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg)
Edniesha Curry, 5-6 Sr. (11.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
Shaquala Williams, 5-6 Jr. (17.1 ppg, 4.2 apg)
Jamie Craighead, 5-9 Sr. (7.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg)
ARIZONA ST. (16-6, 7-4) STARTERS
Betsy Boardman, 6-1 So. (8.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg)
Cian Carvalho, 5-11 Sr. (8.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg)
Melody Johnson, 6-2 Sr. (11.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg)
Amanda Levens, 5-9 Sr. (18.1 ppg, 4.5 apg)
Kylan Loney, 5-7 Fr. (4.7 ppg, 3.3 apg)
6 p.m. PST.
KSCR-AM (1320). No live or delayed television.
WATCH: In four career starts against ASU, Shaquala Williams has 3-1 record, has scored average of 22.8 points a game and equaled her career high with 31 points against Devils on Jan. 6.
THE DUCKS: UO leads series with ASU 25-10 but has lost two of last three games against Sun Devils, including 86-72 setback earlier this month in Eugene ... UO has won 14 of last 17 games against ASU ... Cathrine Kraayeveld has 63 rebounds in last five games, a feat not accomplished since Alison Lang did it in 1983-84 season.
THE SUN DEVILS: In 35-game history of series with UO, ASU has only one season sweep of Ducks (1992-93) ... In last six games against UO at Tempe, ASU has won only once (73-63 last season) ... Charli Turner Thorne, in sixth season at ASU with 81-83 record, is second-winningest coach in 27-year history of program.
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|Title Annotation:||Women: With matching 7-4 conference records, Oregon and Arizona State clash in a race for second.; Sports|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Jan 31, 2002|
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