Pac-12 play is upon us a lot earlier than usual. In the first of 22 conference games, Arizona State (4-0, 1-0) relied on freshman point guard Jaddan Simmons in its 63-58 victory over USC (1-1, 0-1) on Friday night.
Simmons had a game-high 20 points on 5-11 shooting in a team-high 31 minutes played. She also was crucial down the stretch for the Sun Devils. She shot 9-11 from the free throw line, which included five makes in the final six minutes of the game.
“What she did today, she does every day,” Sun Devils head coach Charli Turner Thorne said of Simmons. “I think she’s still figuring out how good she really is.”
Turner Thorne also added that down the stretch, other players said that Simmons should have the ball in her hands.
Dropped a 20-piece in her first @pac12 game pic.twitter.com/wNdjAVoOz3— Sun Devil WBB (@SunDevilWBB) December 5, 2020
Coming into Friday night’s contest against a tough Trojans team, Simmons scored a combined 19 points. So, what finally clicked for the freshman?
“I think my conditioning and talking has helped me improve a lot,” Simmons said. “As we go on, it’s just easier and easier to play with my teammates. We’re really just getting into the flow of things offensively and it’s going well.”
Besides the offensive breakout from Simmons, Arizona State went through numerous cold stretches on offense. They shot 21-59 (36 percent) from the field and finished the last three minutes and 44 seconds without making a field goal.
“We can’t play young,” freshman Katelyn Levings said.
Levings dealt with foul trouble most of the night, but ended with nine points and six rebounds. She also handled the Trojans 6-foot-5 center, Angel Jackson, well on the defensive end.
Jackson finished with 11 points but was not a focus of the Trojans offense until late in the game.
.@KatelynLevings with a big time bucket— Sun Devil WBB (@SunDevilWBB) December 5, 2020
The Sun Devils’ defense was not a problem for most of the game. USC had a scoring drought over the last three minutes in the fourth quarter and Arizona State kept making solid adjustments defensively to close things out strong.
“We needed to all come help and rally together to finish the game through,” Levings said of ASU’s late-game defense and adjustments.
After the first quarter, where USC started the game 5-7 from behind the arc, Arizona State held the Trojans to 1-7 from three-point land after that. This includes a shot that would have tied the game with four seconds left by Endiya Rogers.
In the last meeting between these two teams, Rogers had 30 points in USC’s triple overtime loss. Friday night, she only managed to get 15 points on 5-17 shooting. The Sun Devil defense made her work.
SIX straight home wins against USC pic.twitter.com/sFEXuAvjwN— Sun Devil WBB (@SunDevilWBB) December 5, 2020
With the exception of the first 14 minutes and the last three minutes, it felt like ASU was in the driver’s seat. Since taking the lead with 4:51 in the second quarter, ASU did not trail the rest of the game.
Even with a victory, Turner Thorne still feels there is so much more that her team can accomplish.
“We haven’t even scratched the surface of everything we want to do with it,” said Turner Throne. “We didn’t feel like we played particularly well at all.”
Turner Thorne went on to say that any win in the Pac-12 is a good one, and that it is a positive when you can win like they did tonight, knowing there is so much more potential.
The Sun Devils will not have much time to soak in this victory. On Sunday at 2 p.m. they will play host to No. 9 UCLA, whose roster features two preseason AP All-Americans.