Arizona State (9-6, 4-6 Pac-12) broke a three-game losing streak with its 55-44 win over Southern Utah (8-5, 3-2 Big Sky) on Monday afternoon behind a strong start and steady defense.
Arizona State is no stranger to starting games from behind. For the first time in what seems like the entire season, ASU came out of the gate swinging.
An 8-0 run to start the game was just what Coach Charli Turner Thorne’s squad needed after coming off another eight-day hiatus. From there, the Sun Devils only scored four more points in the quarter, but held the lead for all 40 minutes of the game.
“Early on, we weren’t aggressive offensively,” Turner Thorne said of the offensive drop-off. “We have been trying to live off our half-court offense, which no team should do.”
The ASU defense, which came into Monday as third in the Pac-12 and 26th nationally in points allowed (56.2 per game), was also on display. The Sun Devils forced 19 turnovers, including 14 steals.
Taya Hanson led Arizona State with five steals to go along with her game-high 15 points. She knocked down three triples in the second half, which helped set up open shots for others.
“Defense is the biggest controllable,” Hanson said. “It’s about effort and having each other’s backs and we did that.”
The J̶a̶m̶e̶s̶ ̶H̶a̶r̶d̶e̶n̶ Taya Hanson Step Back pic.twitter.com/dRKEAK4Fd1— Sun Devil WBB (@SunDevilWBB) February 9, 2021
When the Thunderbirds were trying to make a run or shift the momentum, Jaddan Simmons was there to keep ASU in rhythm. The freshman guard added 13 points and a team-high four assists while only turning the ball over once.
“Just controlling the ball, slowing down and seeing the floor (is my biggest area of growth this season),” Simmons said. “Just getting my teammates open is my biggest goal.”
Jaddan sent the Thunderbirds flying with that pump fake pic.twitter.com/DVHfErgDJZ— Sun Devil WBB (@SunDevilWBB) February 9, 2021
Arizona State neutralized all of Southern Utah’s strengths throughout the entire game too. The Thunderbirds, though undersized, have been plus-nine in rebounding margin this year. The Sun Devils won the boards 36-32 on Monday.
Senior guard Liz Graves had also led the Thunderbirds in points (17.9 per game) and rebounds (8.8 per game) but was held to one point on 0-3 shooting and four boards.
For a game that was scheduled shortly before the weekend, ASU handled its business.
“Every game we can get in with this young team will make a difference,” Turner Thorne said.
The Sun Devils will continue Pac-12 play this weekend when they host the Washington schools starting Friday at 5 p.m. local time.