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Arizona State women's basketball returns to the court against No. 22 Colorado following six postponements due to COVID-19 protocols around the Pac-12. The question of how ASU will return to game shape against one of the hottest teams in the conference lingers as the team prepares for its first game in 22 days.
ASU has not played since its 70-54 win over Lipscomb on Dec. 30. The Sun Devils started the year 2-4, but were 6-1 in its last seven games before the stoppage.
When ASU (8-5) hosts Colorado (13-2, 2-2 in Pac-12) at Desert Financial Arena on Friday at 5 p.m., the Sun Devils will be the Pac-12's final team to begin its league slate.
“It’s brutal. I never in a million years thought we’d be back here this year. Last year was incredibly hard, and we’re all vaccinated, we’re all boosted, everybody in my program, and yet we got decimated again," ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne said. "Just the fact that it’s been three weeks and we haven’t had a game, it almost feels like we’re starting over with a new season. It feels like November.”
As exciting as the return to the court feels, Arizona State understands the difficult work ahead in going straight into conference play. Once the last remaining undefeated team in the NCAA up until Jan. 14, Colorado is 0-2 in its last two games. The Buffaloes are coming off a 69-66 overtime loss to Oregon State on Monday, while suffering the team's first loss to No. 2 Stanford, the defending national champions.
The excitement and morale is up for ASU, but the game shape is a different factor.
"That’s probably my biggest concern in terms of being ready, and we don’t want people to get hurt. It’s not just we haven’t played a game in three weeks, we haven’t really been able to scrimmage and do the things you would normally do," Turner Thorne said. "I think hopefully our excitement and our emotions of just being able to play will carry the adrenaline for this weekend.”
The silver lining for the Sun Devils is that forward Mael Gilles is healed after a calf strain sidelined her against Lipscomb in the last game played before the stoppage. Gilles, a transfer from Rutgers, is set to play in her first Pac-12 game and will hope to continue her pace of 10.8 points and 8.2 rebounds. Gilles’ 63 defensive rebounds steadily leads the team’s defensive effort.
Arizona State's defense is going to be tested against Colorado's experienced group, beginning with fifth-year senior Mya Hollingshed. Hollingshed's 14.0 points and 6.7 rebounds lead the team, while junior Quay Miller is right behind with 12.4 points and 5.5 rebounds.
“I feel much more confident because coach did a great job making sure that we’re able to guard all those fast guards and be able to switch in different situations. I feel like we’ll be fine," Gilles said.
Jade Loville leads the Sun Devils in scoring with 15.5 points. Jaddan Simmons has added 40 assists in 13 games and averaged 10.2 points.
“Going through this makes you very grateful for every game you get to play," Turner Thorne said.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: ASU women's basketball to host No. 22 Colorado after COVID-19 stoppage