The same Sun Devil women’s basketball team that once seemed too young or in a rebuilding mode, and suffered back-to-back losses with a 2-2 record, is now 9-2, ranked 21st in the nation and has won seven straight games. Arizona State has dominated mid-major opponents and clawed past ranked teams in the process.
The Sun Devils just put the finishing touches to the end of a strong non-conference schedule with a standout 63-33 defensive win over Holy Cross (2-9).
“For our last preseason game before Pac-12 season, I thought in a lot of ways this was a great game for us,” said head coach Charli Turner Thorne.
Unlike a few NBA teams, the Sun Devils rest on Christmas and don’t play for nine more days until Dec. 30. ASU will begin Pac-12 play against undefeated California (11-0) and women’s basketball powerhouse No. 14 Stanford (9-2).
“I think we are very battle tested. Our schedule is really up there with Stanford and UCLA’s,” Turner Thorne said. “I think we are the only three teams that probably have been scheduled the toughest.”
Arizona State has beaten two ranked teams this season which is already more than anybody in the Pac-12.
One thing the Sun Devils relied heavily on in each non-conference win was their defense. On Wednesday night, ASU held the Crusaders to just 28-percent shooting and their lowest point total (33) of the season.
“Our defense is gonna keep us in every game,” Turner Thorne said. “So in that sense, I thought it was a really good game to finish the preseason with.”
The Sun Devils may have won by 30 points, but the blowout didn’t begin until the start of the second quarter. With the Maroon and Gold trailing 11-8 at the end of the first quarter, Turner Thorne wasn’t satisfied with the team’s production.
“We obviously did not have a good first quarter, but then we only let them score 22 points,” she said. “It’s very different from last year. The switch to zone. We immediately start slicing and dicing and we know we had these concepts ingrained and they’re just not ingrained yet.”
After 10 opening minutes of frustration, the Sun Devils held Holy Cross to 22 points and then doubled the Crusaders in points, 36-18, in the second half.
Arizona State controlled the rebounding game 41-27 and won the turnover battle with only 13 compared to the Crusaders’ 19.
But what truly won the game for the Sun Devils, was their bench that scored 31 of its 63 points.
“Charli really emphasizes going in and being the spark on the team [and] going in with really high-energy,” said freshman guard Robbi Ryan.
High-energy is exactly what she provided for the Sun Devils.
Ryan, who hasn’t started a game this season, still averages the fourth-most points per game for the Sun Devils (7.7). She put up 10 points with three assists and three rebounds against Holy Cross.
“That’s a special aspect of our team,” said sophomore forward Kianna Ibis. “Everyone can score, and it just helps that we sub and rotate a lot, so we can gun up and down the floor and look for our shots.”
Ibis has nearly doubled her season average (6.2) with 12 points, which was good for the second-most on the team and she added six rebounds.
The third Sun Devil to score double-digit points was senior forward Sophie who led ASU with 14 points and also handled six rebounds.
After a landslide victory in which Turner Thorne felt the Sun Devils “did everything we wanted to do,” ASU takes its seven-game win streak into a new challenge: conference play.
The Sun Devils host Stanford on Dec. 30 and then face California on Jan. 1 in what might be the roughest home series for the Sun Devils this season.