After two weeks off, the ASU women’s basketball team went to work in the first round of the NCAA tournament hoping their time off would help. By all accounts, it did.
The No. 9 Sun Devils (23-9, 11-7 Pac-12) defeated No. 8 Vanderbilt, 69-61, at Savage Arena in Toledo, Ohio to advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament Saturday morning.
It is the program’s first tournament victory since ASU defeated Texas A&M; in the Sweet Sixteen in 2009.
Associate head coach Amanda Levens was impressed with how her team came out playing well from the start and credits the time off.
“The vibe how we play so well early is definitely back,” Levens said. “The practice time really helped us get back to the drawing board, work on basic stuff that we had stopped doing really well early in the season.”
Redshirt sophomore guard Katie Hempen led ASU with 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Freshman forward Sophie Brunner added 14 points of her own and pulled down nine rebounds to pace all players.
The Commodores (18-13, 7-9 SEC) generated most of their offense through the post, especially freshman forward Marqu’es Webb. Webb set a career high with 18 points, leading all scorers, and secured eight rebounds.
The stellar duo of senior guards Jasmine Lister and Christina Foggie shot a combined 7-of-19 and scored 27 points.
The Sun Devils were in foul trouble from the start of the game, with four players finishing with at least three fouls.
“We needed to adjust a little bit quicker than we did,” Levens said. “We put them at the line, and even late in the game there was some hand check stuff that we need to learn from because we don’t want to stop the clock when we’re ahead.”
Redshirt seniors, center Joy Burke and guard Deja Mann were two players who played with a high number of fouls, but the rest of the team stepped up, which impressed Levens.
“Joy and Deja had early foul trouble, and to play the entire first half without them really scoring or contributing and to go in with the lead was a great job by the rest of our team picking them up,” Levens said.
Due to ASU’s foul trouble, the Commodores took a lot of free throws, but they could not take advantage of the opportunity. Vanderbilt hit just 51.9 percent of its free throws, making only 14 of their 27 free throw attempts. The low percentage allowed the Sun Devils to maintain and build their lead.
Conversely, the Sun Devils did not attempt their first free throw until there was approximately a minute and a half left in the game and shot 5-of-9 from the stripe.
The Sun Devils will play Monday against either No. 1 Notre Dame or No. 16 Robert Morris.
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