ASU, UA women’s basketball off to a strong start

The Arizona and Arizona State women’s basketball teams are riding high as they look ahead to the start of the Pac-10 schedule next week.

Both are sporting glossy 8-2 records after wins yesterday and each have one last non-conference game to play before their Dec. 31 conference openers with the Oregon schools.

But the Sun Devils have won five in a row and picked up some serious momentum last night with a 79-66 win over the No. 16 DePaul Blue Demons, a team that was coming off a stunning upset of No. 3 Stanford last week.

DePaul was the third ranked team the Devils have already faced this season.  They lost to No. 4 Tennessee and No. 14 Florida State – the only blemishes on this year’s record.

Arizona’s opponent yesterday was a 3-10 team out of the Sun Belt Conference, University of North Texas.  The Cats won that game handily, 88-73, as four players scored in double digits.  Davellyn Whyte had 22 points, Ify Ibekwe added 20, Brooke Jackson added 11 and Soana Lucet had 10.

Whyte is a sophomore guard from St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix.  She was the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, just the fourth player in school history to earn that honor.  She led all freshmen in the conference in scoring last year, with 15.7 points a game.

Jackson is a junior guard from Mountain View High School in Mesa who transferred in after playing a year at Mesa Community College.  She was the second-best three-point shooter on last year’s squad.

The Wildcats’ two losses came to quality teams as well.  They fell to Texas A&M (87-78) and University of Nevada (79-75) in the Cancun Thanksgiving Classic tournament.  Nevada is 9-2 and Texas A&M is 9-1 and now ranked No. 5 in the country.

DePaul had won 10 straight games before running into ASU at Wells Fargo Arena, capped off with the 91-71 dismantling of Stanford.  The Blue Demons were averaging just over 80 points a game.

But ASU held them to just 66, as DePaul struggled from the line, dropping in just 18 of 32 attempts, and from behind the arc where they were 2-for-10.

Tenaya Watson led the Sun Devils with 25 points, a career high, and Dymond Simon duplicated her career-high 24 points.

Simon is a redshirt senior who also played at St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix, where she was selected as a McDonald’s High School All-American her senior year.  The 5’5″ senior guard was the Devils’ scoring leader in the 2008-09 season, but sat out 09-10 with a knee injury.

Watson is a senior guard who played at Central Arizona College before ASU picked her up last year.

ASU and Arizona will both wrap up their non-conference schedules next Tuesday in games against MAAC (Metro Atlantic) opponents.

The Sun Devils will get a stiff challenge from Marist University, a 9-2 team that has won its last five games, while Arizona should be able to coast through one more game as it takes on the 3-6 Gaels from Iona College.

(Photo: ASU Athletics/Steve Rodriguez))