Women’s basketball shoots for 24th consecutive home win
Redshirt senior Nicole Kornet will try to stop the younger Arizona State backcourt this weekend. (Jintak Han/Assistant Photo editor)
Jan. 26, 2017 9:37 p.m.
Nicole Kornet is relatively old for a college student.
At 23, the redshirt senior guard is the second oldest player on the women’s basketball team. After living in Kentucky, Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma, she landed at UCLA after transferring from the University of Oklahoma last year.
When the No. 13 UCLA women’s basketball team (15-4, 6-2 Pac-12) plays No. 16 Arizona State (14-5, 5-3) on Friday, it’ll be a visit from the state that Kornet left over eight years ago.
“It’s kind of fun to (metaphorically) go back to Tempe, back to the hometown and beat up on the Sun Devils,” Kornet said.
Kornet, who often plays alongside fellow redshirt senior Kari Korver, also 23, will have the task of guarding a Sun Devil backcourt that has succeeded despite its youth.
After most of its guards graduated in spring, Arizona State has relied on a talented frontcourt and a relatively inexperienced freshman backcourt to manage the game. Their two highest scorers and rebounders are senior post players Quinn Dornstauder and Sophie Brunner who have been forced to compensate for the 26-plus points per game lost because of the graduating senior guards.
“They’re really heavily reliant on their post players,” Kornet said. “We’re going to pressure the guards and make it hard to feed those posts.”
After a 26-win regular season that gave the Sun Devils a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament last year, ASU has exceeded expectations with its current top-20 ranking.
“I was expecting them to maybe struggle a little bit at the beginning because they’re relying on so much youth at the guard spots,” coach Cori Close said. “As their guards gained confidence I knew they’d be solid.”
The Bruins consistently play five guards around the perimeter, and their only underclassman, sophomore Kennedy Burke, leads the team in steals per minute.
The Bruins currently have a 23-game win streak at home, including their last 15 conference games. Kornet, who has never lost at Pauley Pavilion, is hoping to keep that streak going. Their last loss at home was to then-No. 2 South Carolina in November 2015. The streak is tied for the third longest in the country.
“I don’t plan on losing any (games) at Pauley,” Kornet said. “I just love playing here. It’s a great environment and the fans are awesome.”
Still, there can be a first time for everything, sometimes even at age 23.
During the UCLA’s 23-game home winning streak, the team has gained an increased amount of fan support.
In their last home game, the Bruins saw an attendance of 4,415 people, their largest of the season. This was coming off a crowd of 2,074 in the game against Oregon, which was the team’s previous high.
“We have a new marketing director this year and (operations director) Pam Walker have worked tirelessly to get out into the community,” Close said.
In the team’s last game against USC, the 4,000-person crowd was especially potent as the game came down to a tight ending.
“(The crowd) is actually the reason we came out with the win against ‘SC,” said junior guard Jordin Canada. “Down the stretch they had great energy, and they were there for us and we appreciate that a lot.”