Every year, Charli Turner Thorne, women's basketball head coach, works to teach her team the importance of home court advantage — especially because home wins are a crucial part of every team’s NCAA Tournament resume.
This year, the Sun Devil women’s basketball team has grasped the concept of playing well at home, demonstrated by its 12-1 record at ‘The Bank.'
“I think we have a great team,” Turner Thorne said. “The tradition of winning at home helps, I think they take ‘this is our house’ to heart.”
Turner Thorne said that every time the Sun Devils (19-9, 10-6) spend the weekend playing games at home, the coaching staff puts a little extra emphasis on the motto ‘protect our house.'
The routines and comfort of being at home also have a large impact on the success of the team.
Junior forward Kianna Ibis is averaging 15.5 points at home and said the familiar atmosphere of playing a weekend set at home helps the team feel more comfortable.
“When we are here we get to go home and stuff like that,” Ibis said. “We are kind of relaxed.”
When playing at home, Ibis found it has been easier for her team to maintain stretches of good play, such as the 21-1 point run the Sun Devils had against the Wildcats when the two teams faced off in Tempe last week.
Former Sun Devil guard and now assistant coach Briann January said players' schedules are a lot more structured when the team goes on the road. She said she feels that players thrive on the freedom they are given when playing at home.
“There is something about being able to sleep in your own bed, there’s something about having control over your own time,” January said. “They kind of schedule their own routines when we are at home, we don’t have anything to do with it.”
However, comfort is not the only factor differentiating home and road games for the Sun Devils, who have played ranked opponents in six of 15 games outside of Wells Fargo.
Turner Thorne said she thinks that is part of the reason the team’s home and away splits are so skewed.
“I always don’t think we are a bad road team, we just had a brutal road schedule,” Turner Thorne said. “We’ve played well, we (just) have issues closing out and winning (road) games.”
Four of the team’s eight losses away from Wells Fargo Arena were by 10 points or less.
However, there is a difference in the way the 2017-2018 team competes on the road compared to the way some past teams with similar class demographics have competed.
“I’ve had years with young teams and it’s like ‘oh, we’re not going to be able to handle this’,” Turner Thorne said. “I haven’t felt that way this team at all, I haven’t felt ‘oh gosh we’re on the road’ at all, which is credit to them.”
Teaching a team without any seniors how to play — and eventually win — games away from the home crowd has been a season-long mission for the coaching staff.
“We’ve played some top opponents on the road, throughout the season,” January said. “We are trying to teach them how to prepare to play on the road, in hostile environments against great competition.”
January said as a Sun Devil ,she worked to bottle up all the emotion and energy she drew from a home crowd and let it loose on the road. Now, she is working to teach the current class of Sun Devils how to execute the same strategy.
The next few weeks will test just how far the Sun Devils have come at home and on the road this season.
First, the Sun Devils host No. 8 University of Oregon and No. 22 Oregon State University to close out their regular season. This final home stand will truly measure ASU’s ability to ‘protect their house’.
Then it is off to Seattle for the conference championship, where the coaching staff will finally get to see if the team’s road training has paid off as all games from then on will be on neutral floors.