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Pac-12 women's basketball: Arizona State talk of the conference after stunning weekend of upsets
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Pac-12 women's basketball: Arizona State talk of the conference after stunning weekend of upsets

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Well hello there Arizona State.

What a weekend for the Sun Devils, who pulled off a monumental women's basketball sweep of then-No. 2 Oregon and then-No. 3 Oregon State.

“We’ve been playing better,” ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “I definitely felt good we could have success this weekend. Both of them are great programs, but so are we.”

It was the first time since 2010 that a team beat two top-five teams back to back in the regular season. Stanford accomplished that feat by defeating No. 4 Xavier and No. 1 UConn.

The stunning weekend sweep propelled the unranked Sun Devils (13-4, 3-2) to a No.18 ranking in the AP poll released on Monday.

The Ducks (13-2, 3-1) dropped four spots to No. 6 while the Beavers (15-1, 3-1) fell five spots to No.8.

“With this team, we have really great potential,” Arizona State’s Jamie Ruden said. “So I don't even think about limits or what we can't do. I think we're doing a good job of just showing up and focusing on what we can control.”

The Sun Devils have had to replace their top two scorers from last season, Kianna Ibis (14.1) and Cortney Ekmark (10.3). But the addition of senior Ja’Tavia Tapley, a transfer from USC, has helped offset those losses.

Tapley was named the conference’s player of the week as well as the espnW national player of the week.

ASU lost games early to Minnesota (on the road) and Purdue (neutral site) before dropping two of its first three Pac-12 games against ranked teams Arizona (at home) and UCLA (on the road) before the weekend sweep of the Oregon schools.

The Sun Devils’ victory over the Beavers cost Oregon State a shot at being named No. 1 in the AP poll. It was also the fourth straight win over the Beavers, and would likely have been the fifth straight had it not been for Marie Gulich’s herculean effort at ASU when she dropped 36 points in a 64-60 win in 2018.

Gulich was 16 for 18 from the field — 13 for 13 in the second half — as the Beavers eked out the win.

Since Scott Rueck has been at Oregon State, the Sun Devils hold a 9-8 edge in a tightly contested series. The Beavers had won seven straight prior to the four-game slide.

“We always have great games with them,” Turner Thorne said. “Both teams are always really good defensively so both teams are used to being able to position themselves to win, then it’s just who kind of steps up and takes it.”

At No. 18, the Sun Devils are one of six conference teams in the top 21 this week. Stanford (15-1, 4-0) is No. 3, Oregon No. 6, UCLA (16-0, 5-0) No. 7. Oregon State No. 8, and Arizona (13-3, 2-3) No. 21.

“We have a lot of great teams, including us, in our conference,” Turner Thorne said. “Clearly, we were young and injured early, but we've gotten healthy.”

One unbeaten left

With Oregon State’s loss on Sunday, UCLA, which edged Colorado 65-62 in Boulder, is the last remaining undefeated team in Division I women’s basketball.

The Bruins, at 16-0 and 5-0 in the conference, are off to their best overall start and best conference start since 2002-03.

UCLA has just one game this week — at USC on Friday — and hosts the Washington schools the following week before travelling to Arizona.

The Bruins, who are atop the standings, only play the Bay Area and Oregon schools once, which could be a big advantage.

Weekend showdowns

The losses by Oregon and Oregon State may have put a small damper of this weekend’s showdowns with Stanford as far as rankings go, but not in terms of importance.

The Cardinal head to Oregon on Thursday for a nationally televised game with the Ducks (6 p.m., ESPN) and then play at Oregon State at noon on Sunday on the Pac-12 Network.

Stanford will have one extra day to prepare as the Beavers play host to California on Friday night.

Bracketology

The Beavers fell from the No. 1 overall seed in Charlie Crème’s bracketology to a No. 2 seed but remain in the Portland Regional. OSU has been the No. 1 seed in that regional the past couple weeks.

UConn is now the No. 1 seed with a slightly better resume that the Beavers, according to Crème. Arizona is a No. 6 seed in Portland.

Oregon is the No. 2 seed in the Greenville Regional where South Carolina is the No. 1 seed. ASU is now the No. 5 seed in that regional.

Stanford is a No. 2 seed in the Fort Wayne Regional where Louisville is No. 1. And UCLA is a No. 2 seed in Dallas along with No. 1 Baylor.

VanDerveer mark

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer win her 500th conference game on Friday at home against Cal to become the first women's coach to accomplish that in one conference. 

Plenty of her former players were on hand for the milestone victory.

“It is fun to share something like that with them because they were such a big part of championships," VanDerveer said. “I'm about this team and how hard they're working and how much they're improving and just the fact they're listening and trying to do what we're asking them to do."

Players of the week

ASU's Tapley averaged 15 points and six rebounds in the wins over the Ducks and Beavers to earn the conference's player of the week honor.

Stanford guard Haley Jones was named the freshman of the week after averaging 19 points and three assists in a sweep of California. It's her third honor and ties her with Oregon State's Taylor Jones for the most this season.

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Sports Editor

Sports editor of the Albany Democrat-Herald and Corvallis Gazette-Times

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