With numbers on its side, ASU women's basketball is currently fifth in the Pac-12

Despite statistical edge, the Sun Devils sit at fifth in the conference

For the ASU women’s basketball team, despite leading in nearly every statistical category from game to game against Pac-12 opponents, the Sun Devils still sit at fifth in Pac-12, one spot shy of a first-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament. 

In conference play, the team leads in every statistical category except for blocks, but at 10-6 in the Pac-12, the Sun Devils stand near the middle of the conference, and at 19-9, ASU fell out of the top 25.

While not all of ASU's statistical dominance has converted to wins, head coach Charli Turner Thorne said winning the rebounding margin wins games.

“I felt like if we had rebounded better, we would have beaten UCLA,” Turner Thorne said. “It’s a big message that we are setting. We always say ‘control the boards, we control the game.'"

In the game against UCLA, the Sun Devils won the rebound margin 30-28, but the Bruins' strong performance in the paint gave the No. 10 Bruins the victory.

Since Pac-12 play began, the Sun devils have averaged 35.5 rebounds to their opponents' 28.9 rebounds, giving ASU +6.6 on the rebound margin. Controlling the boards is known by the team as one of the keys to winning the game.

“Having coach make it a big emphasis, rebounding is really important. Rebounding wins games, especially for second shots," junior forward Kianna Ibis said. "Offensive rebounding for us is our best offense. She (Turner Thorne) said if we limit the team to one shot, it’s going to be hard to beat us.”

In Pac-12 play, the Sun Devils' top-three rebound leaders are junior center Charnea Johnson-Chapman (97), redshirt junior guard Courtney Ekmark (79) and Ibis (85). Combined, the three account for 46 percent of the team’s rebounds.

"Rebounding is huge for us; we aren’t the biggest team, but it’s definitely one of the things we focus on a lot,” Ekmark said. “What we always say is, ‘If we play good defense and limit teams to one shot, then it’s going to be really difficult to beat us.' That’s definitely one of our focuses.”

Scoring is another key team statistic that the Sun Devils are favored in. The team is averaging 66.8 points per game to their opponents' 60.2. This has given the Sun Devils a comfortable margin in most games throughout Pac-12 play.

While ASU is statistically stronger than its opponents, Ekmark said consistency in scoring is an issue.

“Now our key is just consistency and maintaining that level of intensity the entire game,” Ekmark said. “... Something we have been focusing on a lot this year is playing with a lot of heart every single possession.”

During the team's Los Angeles road trip, the Sun Devils started the games strong but couldn't maintain the lead.

“We just need to stop letting up – it’s not them changing their defense," Turner Thorne said. “It’s just us knowing to have a killer instinct.”

The Sun Devils finish the regular season at home against the Oregon schools. On Friday, Feb. 23 ASU takes on the No. 8 Oregon Ducks (24-4, 13-2 Pac-12), and on Sunday, Feb. 25 they face No. 12 Oregon State (21-6, 12-4 Pac-12). 

This will be the first time all season that a ranked team travels to Wells Fargo Arena to face the Sun Devils, who look to improve on their 13-1 home record.

Reach the reporter at sbemanue@asu.edu or follow @SebastianEman24 on Twitter. 

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