Coach Joseph Anders took off his suit jacket and stormed into the locker room after UA scored 38 points in the first half against the ASU women’s basketball team.
Senior forward Kali Bennett and senior guard Alex Earl did not go into detail about what was said at halftime, but they said it inspired the team.
“We hadn’t had a team score 38 points on us in a half that I can remember,” Anders said. “I challenged them to say, ‘You know what, we’re going to go back out here and play better defensively.’”
At the end of the second half, Anders turned to the small group of fans wearing gold and raised his fists in victory. The Sun Devils beat the Wildcats on the road, 70–63.
UA was able to spring out to a good start in the first half because of its energy level. The team looked ready to play and rose to the challenge rivalry games always bring.
UA junior guard Davellyn Whyte led the charge for the Wildcats with a team-high 17 points.
Earl said the Sun Devils knew what they needed to do coming out of the break.
“I think our defense helped us turn it around,” Earl said. “That’s the thing we focus on every single time that we step on the court.”
Anders gave credit to the team for marking up and slowing down the Wildcats in the second half, as UA tried to move the ball quickly down the court.
Bennett said the team was calmer and had more confidence shooting in the second half.
After the break, no one was more confident than Earl.
With about 15 minutes left in the game, Earl hit two 3-pointers that sparked a 12-0 ASU run that put the team up 47–46.
Bennett said Earl’s shots energized the team during the run.
“When we hit those threes, it was huge because it boosted us,” Bennett said. “It makes it easier for the rest of us. We are in there battling for boards and it goes in, it’s like whoop, back on defense.”
With the Sun Devils’ aggressive pressure defense, it was expected they would have fouls called against them. ASU finished with 23 personal fouls.
Near the end of the game, Bennett had four personal fouls.
Bennett said Anders told her that she should not try to block shots at the end the game. The Sun Devils’ career blocks leader said that was tough for her to do.
Junior guard Michaela Pickens had four personal fouls in the first half and did not play for most of the second half.
She came off the bench with seven minutes left to play and scored eight points to help secure the win for ASU.
“When we were able to go back to Michaela, what a lift she gave us,” Anders said. “You can’t ask a player to play any better than she played.”
The Sun Devils now move on to the Pac-12 tournament.
Anders said beating the team’s rival is always a great way to start the month of March and hopes the momentum will carry over into the conference tournament.
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