There’s a reason why Arizona State’s mascot (7-2) is the Sun Devils: they bring the heat. In ASU’s game against the UC Riverside Highlanders (1-7), the ASU displayed composition and strength as they played team basketball to a high level to get back-to-back wins. As a nice little bonus the Sun Devils won the ASU Classic Tournament at home.
Arizona State won with a final score of 73-48.
“I was actually very worried about this game,” said ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne. “They’re a tough team. I knew it would be challenging and I thought our team responded very well.”
In Riverside’s last game the Highlanders scored 95 points against UNLV. Turner-Thorne said the key in this game was to not foul and cut off any opportunity for them to get second-chance points.
The Sun Devils brought out a variety of offensive methods, scoring early to get the game started. Sun Devil guards Sabrina Haines and Reili Richardson were leading the charge for most of the first half. Richardson scored 10 points in 13 minutes of play converting on two and-one opportunities while Haines started catching the hot hand scoring on pull-up jumpers and spot up threes.
By then end of the first quarter, Arizona State came out blazing with 27 points shooting an efficient 73 percent from the field.
“Just jumping on them in the first quarter was a huge thing we wanted to do to bring the tempo up to get us started,” said ASU guard Reili Richardson. “I think it’s always fun to play on your home court in front of your home crowd.”
UC Riverside soon adjusted to find ways to stop the Sun Devils from scoring in the second quarter, forcing ASU to shoot 4 of 15 from the field. Halfway through the quarter, the Highlanders went on a 9-0 run to cut into Arizona State’s lead.
By the end of the first period, the Sun Devils still had a comfortable 38-20 lead. ASU only allowed UC Riverside to shot a below-average 20 percent from the field.
The Sun Devils hustled on all ends of the court to grab 27 total rebounds in the first two quarters. Obtaining rebounds has been a key emphasis in the Sun Devils’ game and in this matchup, they stuck to their guns. ASU notched 45 total rebounds by the end of the game, 35 of them being from the defensive side.
However, coming back from halftime, it was a frightening turn of events when the crowd saw Haines collapse. Holding her right knee as she struggled to move, the tension in Wells Fargo Arena felt like it was at an all-time high. Haines was running back on defense as she attempted to reach for the ball on her opponent. She needed assistance being carried off the court afterward. It has yet to be determined what kind of injury she has been dealt.
“I always think positive,” said Thorne when she saw Haines go down. “Sabrina is really a very sturdy kid...we’ll see.”
Just when everyone had seen it all, ASU forward Robbi Ryan also went down grabbing onto her right knee in the fourth quarter. This time, Ryan didn’t have as much difficulty getting on her feet. She was taken out for the remainder of the game.
Two of the Sun Devils key players who provide instant offense and lockdown defense were out of the game, but it didn’t change the result as Arizona State kept playing consistently.
“No matter who’s in, we just always have the same tempo,” said Richardson referring to the Haines injury. “It’s just the way we play.”
A lot of the Sun Devils’ points weren’t coming from any particular player. Many of ASU’s players were contributing scoring inside, outside and from the midrange.
Forward Jamie Ruden shot 60 percent from the three-point line. Ruden hit back-to-back threes to get the crowd fired up as well as her team later in the game.
“I think we got each other open pretty well,” Ruden said. “We had time to get our feet set and get balanced. I always think that shooting at home is easier too.”
ASU’s Sophia Elenga was able to work herself inside the UC Riverside defense, which seemed to work all game long. What seemed like a fortress in the paint didn’t hold as Elenga found ways of scoring close to the basket.
When asked about their next matchup against Florida State, Thorne said “I know they’re undefeated, playing really really well, incredibly efficient offensively, always good defensively. It’ll be fun.”
ASU will travel to Florida State Dec. 10 and tip off will begin at 12:00 p.m. MST.