Anything can happen in NCAA Tournament games.
When two teams that don’t really know each other get together, it’s anyone’s guess as to what will transpire. And that’s exactly what will occur when No. 6 Temple (21-12) meets No. 6 Arizona State (21-10) Sunday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the Comcast Center in College Park, Md.
As the Owls were celebrating their fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament berth on Monday night, they suddenly became aware that they had to face a completely foreign opponent in just five days.
“I don’t know anything [about Arizona State],” coach Dawn Staley said. “I saw them play last year, but we don’t know. But by tomorrow night, we’ll have them.”
“It’s just another team that we want to beat,” freshman guard Lindsay Kimmel said. “I’m sure by tomorrow we’ll know everything about them.”
So as the Owls began practicing and preparing on Tuesday, they most likely set their sights on Sun Devils junior forward/center Lauren Lacey, who averaged 12.5 points per game and shot 48 percent from three-point range. The Cherry and White also have to worry about junior guard Briann January, who averaged 11.2 points per game and senior guard Reagan Pariseau, who shot an astounding 56 percent from behind the three-point line during the season.
But, the Owls are prepared for that.
Staley’s squad finished second the Atlantic Ten Conference in three-point percentage defense, letting opponents shoot just 30 percent from downtown.
However, the Owls will have to keep an eye on the interior as well.
The Sun Devils boast six players over six feet tall, headlined by junior center Sybil Dosty, who paced the team with 6.5 rebounds per game. She will undoubtedly have her hands full down low, going up against the Owls’ “big three” trio of senior center Lady Comfort, and junior guards Shanea Cotton and Shenita Landry.
But according to Sun Devils’ coach Charli Turner Thorne, all the pressure on her teams’ back.
“It’s going to come down to us,” she told The Arizona Republic. “Rebounding, consistency with our defense and making great decisions with our offense. If we do those three things, we are going to advance in the tournament.”
And her defense will be keyed in on Owls’ senior guard Ashley Morris. The 5-foot-5 Philadelphia product has been the undisputed MVP for the Cherry and White this season, pacing the team in points (15.1 per game), assists (147 overall), minutes (34.5 per game) and three-pointers made (63). She was also the only Owls to start all 33 of her teams’ contests.
Stopping Morris is the key to stopping the Owls, as Temple has only won five games in which Morris didn’t reach double figures in points.
The Owls will also need contributions out of their role players: Kimmel, sophomore guard LaKeisha Eaddy and freshman Shaqweida Wallace, as well as what the trio of Comfort, Cotton and Landry offer.
Temple and Arizona State’s contest will be on national television, broadcast on ESPN2. Pam Ward and Nancy Lieberman will call the game with Holly Rowe reporting on the sidelines. Tip-time is set for approximately 9:30 p.m
Todd Orodenker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also read: “Looking back; looking ahead.”