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ASU Women's Basketball: Sun Devils come away with one win in Cancun Challenge

Ending on a high note

Syndication: Arizona Republic Patrick Breen/The Republic via Imagn Content Services, LLC

While lots of families got together this past week to celebrate Thanksgiving, the Arizona State women’s basketball team (3-4) traveled to Cancun, Mexico for three games against high-level opponents.

The Sun Devils left the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya with a 1-2 record, but here is a deeper look at how they fared in each matchup this past week.

WNIT rematch with Houston

Arizona State ended their 2020-21 campaign with a loss to the Houston Cougars in the WNIT. Looking for revenge in game one, the Sun Devils severely struggled in the first quarter.

Call it jet lag or getting used to playing in the hotel ballroom, but ASU came out flat. The Cougars got out to a 10-point lead in the opening frame and did not look back, coming away with the 68-60 victory.

Sophomore guard Jaddan Simmons had a game-high 16 points, shooting 7-8 from the charity stripe. It was one of her more complete games on both sides of the floor as she rejected two shots and added a steal.

In total, the team shot 83.3 percent from the free throw line, but still struggled from behind the arc (3-17 shooting) and turned the ball over 20 times. Hard to come back from a rough first quarter with that kind of efficiency.

A date with the No. 6 Baylor Bears

In a matchup with the biggest opponent ASU has faced so far this year, Mael Gilles was the star for Arizona State. The Rutgers transfer posted her first double-double for the maroon and gold when she posted 10 points and hauled in 14 rebounds.

Baylor kept ASU at an arm’s length all afternoon, pulling away with the 62-52 win. The Sun Devils got as close as eight points within the final five minutes, but Arizona State rebounded well against this nationally-ranked Baylor team.

As a team, the Sun Devils had 41 boards and played 11 players over five minutes. Getting everyone some playing time against a high-level team like Baylor will only prepare them more for when they face teams like Stanford, Oregon, Arizona or Oregon State, all of whom are top-15 teams in the latest AP poll.

Finishing strong against Fordham

Saturday was for the Sun Devils, as they shot the lid off the basket en route to a 58-43 dub. Arizona State looked more like the team they wish to be this season, as they were madly efficient and dominant on both ends of the floor.

The trio of Jaddan Simmons, Jade Loville and Taya Hanson all scored in double figures and combined for 41 points on 16-22 shooting (72.7 percent). The team as a whole shot 37.5 percent from deep and did not settle or force any shots from distance.

After the first quarter ended knotted up at 14 apiece, the Sun Devils took over the driver seat. They also controlled the rebounding battle by plus-eight and ended their three day excursion on the right note.

Other notes

JUCO transfer guard Isadora Sousa got her first minutes of action after sitting out the first four games this season. She came off the bench and you could tell she is getting a feel for playing with her new team, but there were flashes of potential that back up what head coach Charli Turner Thorne said in the past about Sousa being a possible starter for the team.

Speaking of starters, Arizona State has run out the same starting five of Hanson, Simmons, Loville, Maggie Besselink and Mael Gilles in all seven games to start this year. This is a good sign, considering that this roster had more shakeups in the starting five than one could count with all the COVID and injury issues within the program last year.

The Sun Devils will (hopefully) trot out the same five next when they host UTSA at 3 p.m. local time on Dec. 4 at Desert Financial Arena.