ASU women's basketball still finding way through transition year
With a transition year comes a season filled with moral victories.
In Natasha Adair’s first year as head coach, the Arizona State women’s basketball (7-10, 0-8 in Pac-12) program has had to adjust to a new system on top of a team mixed with transfers, true freshmen, and one consistent starter from last season’s team.
Sunday’s 80-67 loss against No. 19 Arizona on paper doesn’t show the hurdles that ASU had to overcome to take the court leading up to the game. The weekend before that game, the team had to forfeit two games after just four scholarship players were cleared to play.
Injuries have messed with the chemistry of a budding team with five players appearing in all 17 games out of the 12 players that have played this season. Maggie Besselink and Morasha Wiggins have been sidelined all season with ongoing injuries.
“You have a blueprint and sometimes you have to pivot, but it doesn’t change your love for what you do,” Adair said during a press conference. “It doesn’t change the special people around you who are leaning in with you to help get it done. It just means that things happen. We have been through so many things as people over the last couple of years that we couldn’t have expected, but we found a way to get through it.”
Here is where ASU stands coming into the final 10 games of the regular season.
In the Pac-12
Moving forward, the Sun Devils will have their best chances to earn a win in the ultra-competitive conference with Washington on Sunday, California on Friday, Feb. 10, and Oregon State on Thursday, Feb. 23. Both games are at home and both teams sit at 10th and 11th in the conference standings.
ASU had its best chance early in conference play for a win at Cal on Jan. 2, but dropped the game in the fourth quarter when Cal outscored ASU 19-8.
Aside from those teams, it doesn’t get easier to get a win with seven of the eight potential NCAA Tournament teams for the Pac-12 on the schedule.
In the present group
Junior Tyi Skinner cleared 1,000 career points in Sunday’s game, a remarkable feat and a promising sign of Adair’s ability to develop players. Skinner transferred this season from Delaware following Adair and has become the facilitator at point guard. Skinner brings a scrappy mentality to ASU and leads in scoring (19.8 ppg), steals (30), field goals (108), and free throws (75).
Another guard earning a fresh start this season is Treasure Hunt. The junior started in 30 games over two seasons at Kentucky and has been adding more help to the offense lately. Against Arizona, Hunt scored a career-high 24 points.
“She’s a matchup nightmare because she’s a big guard,” Adair said. “She can post up those smaller guards, she’s strong, she’s physical around the rim, she’s rebounding the ball at a very high clip.”
Jaddan Simmons switched over to shooting guard since Skinner’s arrival and became the leader after being the only remaining starter from last season. Simmons has shown confidence at times in the position and is second in scoring (12.8 ppg). Simmons has averaged 14 points in her last four games.
ASU has been exceptional at the free throw line this season with 15.88 free throws made per game, 13th overall in the NCAA. The Sun Devils have banked 270 free throws off 366 attempts (73.8%).
In the future
Meg Newman came off a major injury suffered before the previous season began. The sophomore worked her way into the starting lineup with five starts and has brought energy. In her role as one of ASU’s bigs, she’s used her athleticism and tied for the most rebounds in a game for an ASU player since Ja’Tavia Tapley in 2019 with 18 rebounds against Prairie View on Dec. 17.
True freshman Trayanna Crisp has seen a lot of playing time this season with mounting injuries surrounding the team. The strong point guard could be a tough matchup like Hunt and could add the shooting prowess of Skinner.