In its third game in the last 35 days, Arizona State (8-3, 4-4 in PAC-12) was able to pull out the 51-47 win over Colorado (6-6, 4-6) by relying on its defensive effort on Friday night.
The Sun Devils were without the services of forward Katelyn Levings, guard Iris Mbulito, and forward Maggie Besselink due to COVID-19 protocols. This forced coach Charli Turner Thorne to implement a matchup 2-3 zone due to the lack of size in the post.
“I thought they executed (the zone) really well,” Turner Thorne said. “Getting steals was a main focus.”
The Sun Devils played the zone the entire 40 minutes against a Colorado squad that was averaging 14.7 turnovers per game. When the final horn sounded, ASU forced 25 turnovers, including 17 steals.
“(Defense) is just a mindset,” Turner Thorne said. “Whether it’s toughness or willingness to work.”
Freshman guard Jaddan Simmons led ASU with four steals to go along with 13 points and three assists.
On Colorado’s final possession of the game with the Buffaloes down by two, Simmons also poked the ball all the way into the backcourt. This forced time to run off the clock and allow the Sun Devils to get the ball back.
Devil Defense— Sun Devil WBB (@SunDevilWBB) January 23, 2021
How the final min went down ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/K9STiW4gPg
“I knew I had to turn it up and give us that jolt,” Simmons said of her effort.
She also cited that when the offense is struggling, the defense needs to pick up its intensity. In the first half, it was a struggle for both offenses. With ASU holding a 21-15 lead at the break, both teams were combining to shoot 14-53 (26.4 percent) from the field with 23 turnovers.
Taya Hanson led all scorers with 16 points on 5-16 shooting (4-10 from three) and led ASU with six rebounds.
“It may have been a little bit ugly,” Hanson said. “But, it came down to being connected. I’m proud of the girls for that.”
In Turner Thorne’s pregame “Tip from the Tunnel,” she emphasized the importance of out-rebounding the Buffaloes. As a team, the Sun Devils lost the boards 42-33.
Reigning PAC-12 Player of the Week, forward Mya Hollingshed, really made her presence felt. She corralled 17 rebounds to go along with 14 points in conference-leading seventh double-double of the season.
Besides rebounding, the Sun Devils struggled offensively, only shooting 19-57 (33 percent) from the field. That percentage is exactly their average, which ranks last among all PAC-12 teams.
Nevertheless, they earned a hard-fought win. ASU will look to sweep the Rocky Mountain schools on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. local time, when they take on the Utah Utes for the second time this season.