Women’s basketball undefeated in ASU Classic

ASU senior guard/forward Kimberly Brandon (left) looks to shoot over Illinois State junior guard Candace Sykes during the Sun Devils’ 77-54 win over the Red Birds on Saturday. The Sun Devils won both of their games at the annual ASU Classic at Wells Fargo Arena over the weekend. (Photo by Sam Rosenbaum)

The ASU women’s basketball team defended their turf this past weekend, sweeping the competition and easily claiming the ASU classic.

ASU first took on Eastern Washington to start the tournament.

From the opening tip, it was not a contest for ASU. The Sun Devils defense helped with the victory by holding the Eagles to 28 percent shooting.

The Sun Devils also played clean defense, with the Eagles only getting nine shots from the charity stripe.

Junior guard Deja Mann said the team changed up their strategy early in the game on defense.

“All we know how to play is pressure defense,” Mann said. “They called some early fouls so we just tried to adjust to that, keep our hands off and just defend.”

EWU senior guard Brianne Ryan went into the game averaging about 20 points per contest. ASU stationed senior guard Alex Earl on Ryan for most of the game. ASU held Ryan to only 13 points, and she shot just 5-of-17 from the field.

Offensively, ASU had the edge in the frontcourt. EWU only had two players at 6-feet-2-inches, so the Sun Devils tried to take advantage down low.

Three ASU forwards, senior Kali Bennett, senior Kimberly Brandon and freshman Jada Blackwell, all had double-digit points. ASU as a team had 34 points in the paint.

“I feel like we took advantage, pertaining to the post, because they weren’t really as aggressive as us,” Blackwell said. “We had the height advantage, so I feel like we executed well”

With ASU’s pressure defense and strong frontcourt game, the Sun Devils handled the Eagles 74-43.

 

Illinois State handled

ASU was then one win away from taking their home tournament.

On Saturday, they faced Illinois State in the final matchup, and the Sun Devils got off to a good start. At the 13-minute mark in the first half ASU was up 20-4.

Earl said the team really focused on getting off to a good start.

“We always emphasize the first five minutes of each half is the most important,” Earl said. “So when you jump on a team in the first five minutes of each half it kind of sets the tone for the rest of the game.”

Eastern Washington bounced back late in the first half. Led by a couple threes by senior guard Katie Broadway, it seemed like the Redbirds would have some momentum going into half.

Then ASU junior guard Michaela Pickens snatched up two steals back-to-back and converted four transition points to get the momentum back on ASU’s side.

Pickens then came out to score nine points in the first five minutes of the second half.

Earl was again burdened with the task of guarding the opponent’s best scorer. Broadway came into the game averaging 18.2 points per game.

Earl said she enjoys the responsibility of guarding a great scorer.

“I definitely like the challenge to try to guard one of their top players and try to hold them under their average,” Earl said. “I think our whole team did a really solid job of stopping their top scorers.”

Late in the game senior forward Kimberly Brandon scored eight points in under two minutes. Both Brandon and coach Joseph Anders gave credit to the teammates for finding her in the right spots. The scoring run helped Brandon earn the tournament MVP honor.

Anders said he was excited to see Brandon perform that way.

“She did have a Jordan-like experience there, where she just kind of threw her hands, because it seems like everything was going in the bucket,” Anders said.

Led by Brandon the ASU offense rolled on to beat Illinois State 77-54.

 

Reach the reporter at ehubbard@asu.edu

 

Click here to subscribe to the daily State Press newsletter.