On Friday afternoon, Arizona State (6-2, 2-2 Pac-12) was able to shake off some rust in the first half and come back to defeat the Utah Utes (2-3, 1-3) 56-48.
It was the Sun Devils’ first game in five days, which is the longest period of rest for Charli Turner Thorne’s squad this year. Friday’s contest was also the team’s first game outside of Arizona this season.
In the first half, the Sun Devils generated open looks but struggled to hit their shots. They went into the locker room at halftime shooting 22 percent from the field and only down by seven points.
“(At halftime) I just tried to get them to stay positive, stay determined and play hard” Turner Thorne said. “We were right there, so... let’s go out and take this game.”
Arizona State gained momentum in the second half through getting stops on defense, and pushing the tempo on offense.
A 12-1 run to the third quarter gave the Sun Devils their first lead since the opening minutes. From there, ASU was able to hold off a late push from Utah and get back in the win column.
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Guards Taya Hanson and Jaddan Simmons both carried the load for Arizona State, scoring 15 and 12 points respectively. The duo combined to be 13-13 from the free-throw line and Simmons had all her points in the second half.
“I need to do that from the first quarter to the fourth,” Simmons said of her performance. “I was playing out-of-control (in the first half). Just slowing down was my biggest thing.”
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Overall, the Sun Devils shot 20-23 (87 percent) from the charity stripe, well above their season average of 70 percent. Hanson credits this to the amount of work Arizona State puts in outside of practice.
“On our own, we partner up and shoot free throws through the week,” Hanson explained. “So we’ll make 100 (free throws) a week.”
Defensively, Arizona State was solid. They held Utah’s leading scorer and reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week, Brynna Maxwell, to six points on 1-8 shooting. They also forced 18 turnovers and kept the Utes at 30 percent from the field.
“(The game plan was) don’t let her get hot and we need to play team defense,” Simmons said. “Just being able to communicate on the court the whole time was the biggest thing.”
While the Sun Devils only shot 16-62 (26 percent) on the afternoon, their energy level never dropped and they kept their focus throughout.
“We just kept fighting,” Turner Thorne said. “We (lost focus) in the U of A game. We let our offense affect our defense. We really talked about never letting that happen again, keep playing defense and you can stay in every game. I thought they did that today.”
The Sun Devils will finish off their road trip on Sunday at 2 p.m. against Colorado in the team’s final game of 2020.