The Arizona State Sun Devils (18-9, 9-6 Pac-12) took on their rival opponent, the Arizona Wildcats (6-20, 2-13 Pac-12), in a Friday night matchup.
It was a thrill ride the entire way through. However, it was the Sun Devils that became victorious in this rivalry weekend matchup with a final score of 75-50.
“Give U of A credit. They did a great job in the first half,” said ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne, “Good team win.”
To start the game, the Sun Devils went on a 6-0 run halfway through the first quarter. Arizona State was also locking down the Wildcats’ flow of offensive consistency by keeping Arizona scoreless for four minutes of play early on. ASU’s energy was being seen in a number of ways.
“We didn’t want to zone U of A and we knew we needed to pick up the pace...The way they mix up their defenses, they do a good job of that,” said Turner Thorne.
Arizona’s brand of offense and defense was also on a roll of its own. The Wildcats found ways of creating shots and getting baskets totally on to their score.
In a competitive first quarter, the Wildcats and the Sun Devils were tied 16-16, and Arizona was shooting 64 percent from the field.
“We were leaving them open, we weren’t switching out on the screen. We had to adjust to that and we had to take away from their perimeter shots,” said Throne.
As the game was progressing, the Wildcats would look to move the ball around the perimeter as they set screens and pick-and-rolls to find other ways of getting their offense in motion. Although they were keeping up with Arizona State, the Wildcats were finding it hard to keep control of the ball as ASU junior forward Courtney Ekmark recorded four steals, alone, in her first 10 minutes of play.
“I was just trying to be active on defense and give nothing easy,” said Courtney Ekmark on her defensive efforts while recording five steals at the end of the game.
At the end of the first half, Arizona State was pushing past the Wildcats by only four points with the score being 27-23. The Wildcats would be in a comfortable position knowing that they were giving the Sun Devils a run for their money.
Whatever it is about rivalry games, something seems to get these players riled up. Perhaps it’s the tone or the feeling of playing against a team you’re supposed to loathe, but the tone and tenacity escalated immensely in the second half. The physical play picked up as both the Wildcats and the Sun Devils were practically charging at each other.
“We definitely picked up our consistency,” said ASU guard Robbi Ryan, “It was a great winning experience.”
ASU’s offense was becoming a little more consistent and fast-paced. The Sun Devils went on another run scoring nine points in less than two minutes, the way Arizona State was moving the ball up the court as fast as they could every possession down the floor.
The Sun Devils didn’t look like they wanted to waste time as they worked to find open spots inside while distributing the ball with a focus. Arizona State worked well together by spreading out the floor and opening up for shots when it counted. If the Wildcats were clogging the lanes, the kick out was always an option.
“We were forcing things and us not executing. In the second half, we played like a veteran team,” added Thorne on the Sun Devils’ improved second half.
The offense for Arizona State really caught on fire with 2:31 left in the third as they went on a 19-1 run! Meanwhile, the Wildcats fell into a slump as they stayed scoreless for more than nine minutes of play.
“It was definitely our energy and it was a huge part as to how we could score so much,” said Ryan.
When asked about preparations for next game, Ryan stated that the team will “try to get some fresh legs back for our next game.”
The fourth quarter was more of the same for the Sun Devils as they limited offense for the Wildcats. Transitioning from a fast-paced offense, Arizona State began playing a slower tempo game. ASU was setting screens and passing to that extra player to free up space on the floor.
Everything was all said and done when the fourth quarter ended, and Arizona State had beaten the Arizona Wildcats. But the battle isn’t over because rivalry weekend has only just started. The Sun Devils will now travel to Tucson on Sunday, Feb. 18 to take on Arizona in Tucson at 4 p.m. MST.