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ASU Women’s Basketball: Sun Devils come out strong in season opener against Air Force

Starting the season off with a win

Richard Martinez/ House of Sparky

Sara Bejedi, who scored 12 points in her first collegiate game, found Taya Hanson on a fast break after Hanson stole the ball to initiate the play. Leading to her reverse layup igniting the crowd out of their seats. This one was one of the many times that Bejedi was involved in the fast break which led the Arizona State Sun Devils (1-0) to 87-56 victory over the Air Force Falcons (0-1).

She’s just soaking in the first win.

“It’s surreal,” Bejedi said. “Last year I was watching Pac-12 from my TV and now I’m actually here. I was definitely nervous. I’m living the dream. I was just having fun out there. My teammates are great, and I really got a lot of energy from them.”

Before the season started, head coach Charli Turner Throne emphasized how athletic her team was, which would lead to faster pace on the court. The Sun Devils had 22 fast break points, compared to the Falcons’ six.

“I was really pleased,” Turner Thorne said. “It was a great team win. We’ve got a lot of pieces, it’s kind of continuing to put them together.”

Starting guard Robbie Ryan was out with a foot injury and is day-to-day, but the Sun Devils didn’t hesitate to pick up the missing pieces. Four out of 11 players scored in double digits with everyone putting up points on the board.

The 6’3 senior Ja’Tavia Tapley was among those with double digit points, scoring 11 with eight rebounds. She was the leading rebounder of the night.

“She’s still get acclimated to Sun Devil basketball,” Turner Thorne said. “There’s no place to rest and she’s offensively finding her groove. I thought it was a really good first game for Tay (Tapley).

“All of our new kids and sophomores didn’t play as well as they’ve practiced, just to give a preview. When we get more relaxed, she’s going to be tough.”

Arizona State closed out the first quarter with a 11-0 run extending their lead to 22-11. Despite the Falcons being within four with 3 minutes left in the half, the Sun Devils were able to close it out with a 7-0 run putting them up 40-29.

Coach Turner Thorne was not happy with the amount of points given up and said postgame that her team “does not give up 30 points in a half.”

They came out swinging in the second half and lead by 24 points at one point in the third quarter. The Sun Devils had the lead for 36:59 minutes of the game, while the Falcons only held a lead for 28 seconds in the first quarter.

Not only did Arizona State dominate the Falcons in fast breaks, they showed improvements in rebounding. The Sun Devils out-rebounded the Falcons 42-36. The team lost three key players, Kianna Ibis, Charnea Johnson-Chapman and Sophia Elenga, last season that accounted for 48 percent of the team’s rebounds.

“I feel like our coaches are really emphasizing rebounding,” said senior Jamie Ruden. “The drills that we do against the scout guys, who are really athletic, always prepares us well for any team that we face. As the season goes on, we’ll get better at that and get more consistent with our box outs.”

The Sun Devils shot 54 percent from the floor and went 5-for-13 from the 3-point line. Freshman Eboni Walker and Reili Richardson raked up 14 points and 16 rebounds.

The Sun Devils were able to pull out a dominant first win as they prepare to take on Army at home on Sunday at 5:00 p.m.