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Sun Devils bring national ranking to Washington schools to open league play

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When it visits Washington State Friday, the Arizona State women’s basketball team will open the Pacific-12 Conference schedule as the No. 24 team in the nation and defenders of a 10-game winning streak.

Fresh off Monday’s 63-60 thriller over No. 20 Syracuse, the Sun Devils (11-1) are at the Cougars (6-6) at 8 p.m. MT and the Washington Huskies (7-4) at 3 p.m. MT Sunday.

“It’s something they have earned,” ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne said of the ranking. “That’s what we talk about, and for that I’m really proud of the team. It’s familiar territory, it’s where we want to get back to. At the end of the day, all that means is we’re going to get everybody’s best effort, starting Friday night. We talk about being able to handle that.”

Junior guard Tia Presley leads WSU in scoring at 20.4 points per game, up from 13.3 last season, while sophomore guard Lia Galdeira has improved to 17.8 per contest from an honorable freshman season. The Cougars will be well rested after a 13-day hiatus, having last played Dec. 21 – a 70-62 loss to Gonzaga.

Washington, under first year head coach and former assistant Mike Neighbors, squeaked past UC Irvine, 72-69, on Monday. Two guards are averaging 18 points per game - 5-foot-7 junior Jasmine Davis (18.8) and freshman Kelsey Plum (18.3). Talia Walton is scoring 13.9 points and grabbing 9.8 rebounds in her sophomore season, and junior forward Aminah Williams is posting eight and 11 per night.

“Those programs have just continued to get better,” Turner Thorne said. “Every team in our conference has proven we can play with the best in the country.”

ASU was 0-5 against the two schools last season, including the 48-41 loss to WSU in the first round of the conference tournament.

“We’re in a great place, but not one person is satisfied, so we’re just going to keep preparing,” ASU senior center Joy Burke said.

Burke was one of three Sun Devils who placed in double rebounding figures against Syracuse, joining Kelsey Moos and Sophie Brunner.

“We know we play in a tough conference, but we set goals preseason we wanted to accomplish, and we’re ready for the challenge,” Moos said.

The Arizona Wildcats (4-7) will be at Washington at 8 p.m. MT Friday and the Cougars at 1 p.m. MT Sunday. Following a five-game losing streak, Arizona has won three consecutively, including 67-54 over Arkansas-Pine Bluff Dec. 29.

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