The ASU women’s basketball team’s season officially ended Monday when it was not invited to a postseason tournament.
The Sun Devils (13-18, 5-14 Pac-12) played their last game on March 7 when they lost to Washington State in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament, 48-41.
Coach Charli Turner Thorne has built a program that expects to finish near the top of the conference. But that was not the case this year.
ASU finished ninth. The rebuilding season started with an injury to its star player, no returning starters and only two active seniors.
“While we did not meet our standards for our Sun Devils women’s basketball program, we also know why. We had an all-new team, love that we got great experience,” Turner Thorne said. “We’re excited about getting back to where we’ve been and where we expect to be sooner rather than later.”
Since 2005, the Sun Devils have qualified for the NCAA tournament six times, making the Elite Eight twice. Since then, they’ve also finished second in the Pac-12 conference standings four times and have finished in third twice.
ASU’s biggest weakness was its inability to score the basketball at an efficient rate. It finished second-to-last in conference in points per game, averaging 58.
It also finished second-to-last in the Pac-12 in three-point percentage, shooting only 26 percent from range.
Its deficiencies on the offensive end led to most of its losses. It is the area in which the Sun Devils need the most improvement.
“We absolutely need to advance our skill level and our ability to put the ball in the basket,” Turner Thorne said. “That’s what all the top teams in the country can do better than other teams. We can teach everybody to play defense, but we have to be able to make shots.”
The season consisted of a myriad of games where the Sun Devils couldn’t generate offense. They would be within striking distance because of its defense.
However, no one should be surprised if the Sun Devils are back amongst the best of the Pac-12 next season. They will have a returning roster of nine players who have had ample playing experience because of this transition year.
“We have a lot of work to do, but once the players evaluate and adjust and put the work in, we’re confident we will have the experience and skill to be a better offensive team,” associate head coach Meg Sanders said.
ASU had the same starting lineup for all but five games this season. Next year, it will return three of those starters, junior Adrianne Thomas, sophomore Promise Amukamara, and redshirt junior Joy Burke.
Senior Deja Mann, who redshirted this season due to injury, will also return.
The sophomore transfer from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, guard Katie Hempen, will also be eligible to play next year. She won Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year and was apart of the All-Newcomer team in 2012.
“They’re going to do a lot of big things next year,” redshirt senior Janae Fulcher said. “They’re still young, but I definitely think they’ve learned a lot this year.”
The underclassmen strongly contributed this season.
Freshmen Haley Videckis and Arnecia Hawkins led the team with 28 and 26 three-pointers, respectively.
Amukamara, the only Sun Devil to start every game, finished ninth in the conference, averaging 1.9 steals per game.
Not many expected the success that the Sun Devil nation is used to seeing with women’s basketball. And it was unlikely to happen with a team returning no starters and Turner Thorne returning from her one-year leave of absence.
However, there should be higher expectations for the 2014 season. Those expectations seem to have a great chance of being met.
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