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ASU Women’s Basketball: Pac-12 play begins with a Territorial Cup clash

No. 17 ASU will begin their conference schedule in enemy territory.

Richard Martinez/ House of Sparky

After a strong showing in the non-conference, the No. 17 Devils (9-2) will travel to Tucson for basketball’s first edition of the Territorial Cup in 2018-2019.

Arizona (10-1) and ASU will tip off Sunday at 5 p.m. from McKale Center. The game will be on the Pac-12 Networks or can be heard on NBC Sports Radio AM 1060.

While the record stands better than ASU, the Wildcats have had a much simpler path up to this point. Their one loss was to Loyola Marymount (7-5) 66-64 in early November. But none of their other scheduled opponents were of the level ASU faced.

ASU faced two top-10 opponents in No. 7 Baylor (8-1) and No. 3 Louisville (12-0) to which they lost by a combined eight points. Arizona has faced none.

In a conference stacked with talent, this will be Arizona’s toughest test thus far, with teams like No. 5 Oregon, No. 6 Stanford, No. 11 Oregon State and No. 14 California down the road.

Arizona has been led by redshirt sophomore Aari McDonald. The Washington transfer has averaged 24.2 points per game and has started all eleven games thus far. As a team, Arizona has outscored opponents by an average of 26.3 points.

To add to it, freshman Cate Reese is nearly averaging a double double per game; 14.5 points per game and 9.5 rebounds per game.

ASU’s leading scoring duo of seniors Kianna Ibis and Courtney Ekmark has pushed the offense to this point, but it has been more of a story for the depth of the roster, rather than one or two players.

Junior Kiara Russell and senior Sophia Elenga have been crucial off the bench and the freshmen class of Taya Hanson, Jamie Loera, Jayde Van Hyfte and Iris Mbulito have all seen minutes in every game this season.

As the season goes on, coach Charli Turner Thorne will likely employ a smaller rotation, but this may not be the game we will witness it.

Last year, the Devils swept the Wildcats in a total three games last season. Although, in history, it has often been far advantageous for the Devils. ASU holds the all-time lead with a 63-33 record against the Wildcats.

Will the Devils end 2018 on a high note and keeping the winning streak heading into 2019?