ASU women’s hoops strengthens defense in first Pac-12 win

Freshman guard Arnecia Hawkins tracks a rebound against Oregon's junior forward Danielle Love (left) and Jordan Loera (right) during ASU's win against Oregon on Friday. (Photo by Molly J Smith)

Freshman guard Arnecia Hawkins tracks a rebound against Oregon’s junior forward Danielle Love (left) and Jordan Loera (right) during ASU’s win against Oregon on Friday. (Photo by Molly J Smith)

The ASU women’s basketball team forced 28 turnovers vs. Oregon and went on to win its first Pac-12 game of the season 60-45.

The Sun Devils (9-6, 1-2 Pac-12) turned it around defensively after lackluster efforts the past two games.

They only scored 60 points but more importantly held an Oregon (2-12, 0-3 Pac-12) team that averages 66 points to just 45 points Friday night.

While both teams only shot 34 percent for the game, the Sun Devils converted 27 points off of turnovers. The Sun Devils gave up the ball just 14 times, half of the Ducks’ turnover count.

“Forcing turnovers, taking care of the ball, stopped shooting up so many threes,” ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “They found their focus a lot better and did what we’re capable of doing. I thought we kind of just played within ourselves.”

ASU gave up 77 points each to both Washington and Washington State last weekend. But Friday night, the ball pressure was up, communication was there, the help was in position and the effort was evident.

“They responded,” Turner Thorne said. “They are learning what it takes to win. And they are learning what they we want in our Sun Devil defense.”

Oregon junior guard Ariel Thomas averaged 17 points per game for the Ducks coming in.

She was held to just two points.

ASU sophomore Promise Amukamara and senior Micaela Pickens took turns guarding Thomas, who shot just 1-of-9 from the field.

Amukamara is one of the better defensive players in the Pac-12 and isn’t afraid of sticking a scorer.

“I really like keying in on players and just locking them down,” Amukamara said. “I know if that’s what it takes to win, I’m willing to do it.”

She averages a little under two steals per game.

Offense was difficult to come by in the first half. The first 20 minutes was brutal for ASU, which shot just 27 percent from the field.

It only improved from there.

Redshirt senior Janae Fulcher led the offensive charge for the Sun Devils.

At one point, the scheme seemed so simple: give the ball to No. 22.

“That wasn’t necessarily the game plan until like five minutes into the second half,” Fulcher said.

She scored 16 of her game-high 18 points in the last 18 minutes.

Besides Fulcher, ASU executed better in the second half, which led to a decent 42 percent shooting.

“The whole game plan was to get it into the post and find open gaps,” Fulcher said. “And that’s exactly what we did – we cutted to the open space.”

With 16 minutes left in the game, ASU went on a 10-0 run to take the lead and extend it to 35-30.

The Sun Devils capped it off and put the game out of reach with about eight minutes to go, when they went on a 16-4 run and ignited Wells Fargo Arena.

ASU takes on Oregon State (7-8, 1-2 Pac-12), which are fresh off beating UA.

The two teams play Sunday at 1 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena.


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CORRECTION: The article previously stated that ASU the same number of turnovers as Oregon with 28. The Sun Devils only committed 14, and the statistic has been updated in the article.