ASU women’s basketball again relies on defense for win over Atlantic-10 favorite VCU

It’s all about defense right now for Arizona State women’s basketball because early on the offense resembles a turkey gone wrong on Thanksgiving.

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ASU women’s basketball faces Atlantic-10 favorite VCU on Friday

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ASU women’s basketball counting on juniors being ready for larger roles


Juniors Iris Mbulito, Taya Hanson and Jayde Van Hyfte, left to right, will have expanded roles for Arizona State women’s basketball in its pursuit of a seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. (Photo: Katie MacCrory/Sun Devil Athletics)

For a decade and a half when Arizona State women’s basketball needs to reload, it almost always finds a way.

Whether it’s thanks to players ready to contribute after waiting for their turn or talented freshmen coming along at just the right time, ASU continues to pass the baton from one 20-win season to another. Fourteen in all over the last 16 seasons including a current school record of seven straight.

Now with the loss of five seniors, four of them starters, the Sun Devils again are at a crossroads. A significant enough one that they’ll likely need returners and newcomers to come up big for them to remain in the top half of the still loaded Pac-12.

“I do think we develop our players, they get better,” ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “We coach everybody hard from the day they get here and we look for opportunities to play people as soon as they get here, even if it means winning by a few less points. That just naturally allows for great development, and that’s what we’re seeing right now in this junior class.”

There are four returning juniors and a junior college transfer starting her ASU career. Forward Jayde Van Hyfte started every game as a sophomore and guard Taya Hanson made 12 starts to cover for injuries. Turner Thorne is banking on those two and guard Iris Mbulito stepping up to fill the experience gap left by departures of guards Reili Richardson, Robbi Ryan and Kiara Russell and posts Jamie Ruden and Ja’Tavia Tapley.

The outgoing players combined for 68 percent of ASU’s scoring in 2019-20, 47 percent of rebounds and 62 percent of assists.

Van Hyfte has been rehabbing from meniscus surgery in April, her third knee surgery in all dating back to high school days in Annawan, Illinois. She recently had a platelet-rich plasma injection to alleviate pain and despite being limited in practice hopes to be ready for the season opener Nov. 25. 

“We’ve worked very hard these last two years and learned a lot from the upperclassmen who were the leaders of our team, and hopefully we can all step into bigger roles this year,” Van Hyfte said. “I believe in my fellow classmates and myself.”

Mbulito also had a recovery summer after breaking her leg and injuring an ankle falling off a skateboard. She is back at full practice and projected to be a perimeter starter along with Hanson and freshman Jaddan Simmons.

“This wasn’t my first time skateboarding, it was my first time using a longboard,” Mbulito said. “I just had bad luck because the longboard hit a little rut and I wasn’t ready for that then I fell and it was really bad. After that one, I probably won’t do it ever

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Arizona women’s basketball highest ever No. 7 in AP preseason poll. ASU among those receiving votes.


Arizona women’s basketball, led by All-America guard Aari McDonald, received its highest Associated Press preseason ranking Tuesday. (Photo: Associated Press)

Arizona women’s basketball is ranked No. 7 in the Associated Press preseason poll, its highest preseason ranking and tied for its highest ranking ever.

The Wildcats previous preseason high was No. 15 in 1997-98 when they also reached their overall AP poll high of No. 7.

UA was 24-7 in 2019-20 and ranked No. 12 in the final AP and coaches polls. Returners include two-time All-America guard Aari McDonald and forwards Cate Reese and Sam Thomas. Coach Adia Barnes also has substantial additions including transfers Trinity Baptiste (from Virginia Tech) and Bendu Yeaney (Indiana).

Other Pac-12 schools in the AP preseason top 25 are Stanford No. 2, UCLA No. 9, Oregon No. 10 and Oregon State No. 18.

Arizona State, coming off a seventh consecutive 20-win season, and USC are among others receiving votes.

South Carolina is ranked No. 1 preseason for the first time. Others in the top 10 are Connecticut No. 3, Baylor No. 4, Louisville No. 5, Mississippi State No. 6, and North Carolina State No. 8.

The women’s basketball season begins Nov. 25 and the 22-game Pac-12 season on Dec. 4 with UA opening against UCLA and ASU vs. USC.

AP preseason top 25

South Carolina 1, Stanford 2, Connecticut 3, Baylor 4, Louisville 5, Mississippi State 6, Arizona 7, North Carolina State 8, UCLA 9, Oregon 10.

Kentucky 11, Maryland 12, Texas A&M 13, Arkansas 14, Iowa State 15, Indiana 16, Northwestern 17, Oregon State 18, DePaul 19, Ohio State 20.

Gonzaga 21, Notre Dame 22, Syracuse 23, Missouri State 24, Michigan 25.

RV: Texas, South Dakota, Florida State, North Carolina, Arizona State, Princeton, Marquette, South Dakota State, Boston College, South Florida, USC, Rutgers, Tennessee

Jeff Metcalfe AP vote

South Carolina 1, Stanford 2, Connecticut 3, Baylor 4, Mississippi State 5, North Carolina State 6, Louisville 7, Arizona 8, UCLA 9, Oregon 10.

Kentucky 11, Maryland 12, Texas A&M 13, Arkansas 14, Northwestern 15, Indiana 16, Iowa State 17, Oregon State 18, DePaul 19, Notre Dame 20.

Ohio State 21, Gonzaga 22, Syracuse 23, Missouri State 24, Arizona State 25.

More: Simmons, Levings making early impression with ASU women’s basketball

More: Phoenix selected to host 2026 NCAA Women’s Final Four

Reach the reporter at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @jeffmetcalfe.

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Khalil Tate ‘Mr. October’ clothing line rankles ASU football fans


Former Arizona Wildcats quarterback Khaili Tate has started a clothing line and Arizona State fans are not happy about it.

Earlier this month, Tate, who had some very

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