No matter how you spell their first names, these two are tough

By From page B1 | December 14, 2011

UCD guards Hana Asano, left, and Hannah Stephens are as tough for opponents to deal with on the court as they are personable off the hardwood. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

UCD guards Hana Asano, left, and Hannah Stephens are as tough for opponents to deal with on the court as they are personable off the hardwood. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

Walking between classes or headed to The Pavilion for practice, neither Hana Asano nor Hannah Stephens attract much attention.

They are of average height and if they’re not wearing a UC Davis women’s basketball uniform, a person may not even suspect they were on the team.

However, put them in a uniform and on the hardwood and they turn into an opponent’s worst nightmare. They corner the opposition with tenacity and leave them looking for any way out. Usually, the “way out” is a turnover or timeout.

“We play the top positions, so we set the tone for the defense,” said Stephens, a 5-foot-7 junior guard. “We’re both on the small side; we’re not the tallest, so we have to hustle. We go the extra mile.”

Asano, a 5-6 guard, said: “I really like playing with Hannah up there because she’s quick and smart. We communicate without saying anything. It’s fun because she’s fast and can complete my traps.”

Teams on the other side of the scoring table are not having fun facing this defensive tandem. The UCD squad has a plus-5.3 turnover ratio, and the Aggies average 11.2 steals per game. Asano and Stephens are not credited with every steal but they have a hand in (or on) many of them.

UCD (6-3) is taking its act on the road for a final tune-up before the start of Big West Conference play, traveling to Honolulu, Hawaii, for the Chevron Wahine Shootout from Sunday to Tuesday. The Aggies open against Denver University (7-3), then have games against Portland State (4-3) and Hawaii (2-7).

“It’s a fun venue, and it’s going to be a fun tournament, but for our team, we’re focused on getting ourselves better,” Stephens said.

Asano, whose mother and younger brother live on Oahu, is excited for her family to see her play in person but she’s still focused on the game plan.

“We’re going to be playing three tough teams back-to-back,” she said, but noted these teams haven’t seen the 2011-12 version of the Aggies. “Any time a team sees us for the first time it’s hard because our zone is not normal. It’s so fun to see other teams dealing with us.”

On the other side of the court there is little relief for opponents as the Aggies’ five-guard offense keeps things moving at a fast pace.

While any player on the floor can bring the ball up the court, Asano usually directs traffic from the point guard spot, with Stephens close by at the 2. Asano, who has 28 assists, loves to find Stephens behind the arc for an easy 3-pointer. Stephens has 13 treys and shoots a team-high .481 percent from downtown.

“It’s nice having her as a 2,” said Asano, who has made 10 shots from downtown this season. “She’s quick, and when I pass it up to her she launches it. She’s a shooter and puts up points for us.”

Stephens averages 10.1 points per game on a squad that has seven of 11 players averaging five points or more per game.

“The good thing about starting five guards is other teams don’t usually do the same thing, so you have one or two posts trying to guard a guard,” Stephens said. “We use that to our advantage.”

— Reach Kim Orendor at [email protected]

Kim Orendor

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