That was quite the matchup — and that’s in no reference to the Super Bowl.
The Arizona State Sun Devils (17-7, 8-4 Pac-12) went head to head with the Washington State Cougars (10-14, 3-9 Pac-12) on Sunday and came out on top with a 77-51 victory. ASU started off slow, as did the Cougars, but as the game progressed the Sun Devils found a groove and kept it until the final buzzer.
“They’re a good team, and I thought this was a huge win for us,” said Arizona State head coach Charli Turner Thorne.
Arizona State and Washington State were similar in many facets. The shooting percentages were not very high as both teams were shooting below 30 percent in the second quarter. Besides shooting, rebounding numbers were right around the same; Washington State had 14 with 3:09 in the second, trailing ASU’s 20 boards at the time.
“That’s always a big focus for us is our rebounding,” said ASU junior forward Courtney Ekmark. “We had a couple break downs, but we had some possessions where we were actually talking to each other and helping each other out.”
Through all this, the Cougars were keeping up. WSU locked down on ASU sophomore guard Reili Richardson early to disassemble the Sun Devils’ passing. Washington State also found methods of dealing with ASU’s main scoring forward junior Kianna Ibis as she was held to 2-7 shooting in the first half.
“Offensively, we really worked on just being able to move the defense and move the ball,” said Ibis, who would improve her shooting, scoring 16 points on 7-of-13 from the field.
When ASU had a hard time hitting shots, the Sun Devils relied on defense. The Sun Devils shot below 40 percent in the first half, but limite the Cougars offensively.
“I think we wore them down and did a great job. It was just a great team win,” said Charli Turner Throne, “They’re kind of gelling as a team and understanding and just growing in their toughness.”
The third quarter for ASU’s a chance for to make up for poor offense, as the Sun Deviks responded by going on a 6-0 run to start off the second half.
ASU went from 23 rebounds in the first half, to 49 at the end of the game. It was a monstrous game on the boards for the Sun Devils.
“Bottom line is if we don’t rebound it’s not going to work,” Turner Thorne said.
The level of physicality reached its peak in the fourth when both the Cougars and the Sun Devils were battling on the boards and causing turnovers on defense. However, it was ASU that stepped up in the end.
“I think we’ve recovered from our midseason struggles. The finish line is there and I think the team is getting excited about the home stretch and the postseason,” stated Thorne.
It was a high energy contest, and a fun one, according to Ibis.
“It’s really funny and exciting when I see her next to me on the bench,” Ibis said of Sabrina Haines. “She just adds a lot of energy to our team.”
To add to damage, the Sun Devils went on a scoring borage late in the fourth shooting a perfect 8-of-8 from the field for two of the last three minutes in the quarter.
Next up: ASU travels to take on the USC Trojans (15-7, 5-6 Pac-12) on Friday, Feb. 9 at 8:00 p.m. MST.