ASU women's basketball beats rival Arizona, moves onto quarterfinals

A first quarter run gave Sun Devils an easy win over the Wildcats

In their first game of the Pac-12 tournament, ASU women’s basketball faced off a particularly familiar opponent: in-state rival the Arizona Wildcats. The Sun Devils used another strong start as they opened the game with a 13-0 lead and never looked back, beating the Wildcats 76-47.

The Sun Devils were the sixth seed, and the Wildcats were the 11th seed as they faced off in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament on Thursday at KeyArena in Seattle, WA. 

ASU came out looking to be pesky on defense and scoring efficiently, and they did just that. Junior forward Kianna Ibis opened up the game with a quick four points. For the first time, Ibis made the Pac-12 All-Conference team.

As the game continued to flow, the defensive intensity was the same. Head coach Charli Turner Thorne has implemented such intensity previously against the cross-town rivals 

“We took the same strategy that we did the other two games (against UA),” Turner Thorne said. “Take away there threes, keep them in front of us and just play really good team defense.”

Entering the matchup, ASU was No. 1 in defensive scoring, only allowing opponents to score 57.33 points per game. 

The Sun Devils forced the Wildcats to nine turnovers in the first quarter alone, and made the Wildcats take desperate shots to pull themselves back into the game. Arizona finished shooting 40 percent from the field but were careless protecting the ball (17 total turnovers). 

For the Sun Devils, those mistakes by Arizona gave them 20 fast break points and proved why the Sun Devils defense is a tough team to face for 40 minutes. 

Arizona State shot the ball efficiently all game shooting 57 percent from the field. They attempted 58 shots and were able to capitalize on second chance points, scoring 16 in the process. 

For the Sun Devils, Ibis led the team in scoring with 13 as she shot 50 percent from the field. Her presence early to score made the defense shift its attention towards high pressure. This gave the guards, (redshirt junior guard Courtney Ekmark, sophomore guards Robbi Ryan, Reili Richardson, Kiara Russell) an opportunity to shoot the ball. 

Ekmark finished with six points and seven rebounds, Ryan finished with eight points, four assists and four rebounds. Richardson finished with nine points, four rebounds and four assists. Russell had a career night, tying her points at nine and setting a new assist-high with eight. 

Ibis said that the defense presence in the first quarter where they only allowed two points turned over to a strong production on the offensive side.

“We knew we had to jump on them first, and we always emphasize being the more aggressive team and rebounding early,” Ibis said. “We knew we had to get into the post because it’s kind of a mismatch in there.”

All four post players for the Sun Devils equated for 40 points and gave the guards a reason to keep feeding them.

“They went to a smaller lineup, so I just fed into the post and just got us into offense,” Russell said. 

Turner Thorne said that she isn't used to the play-in games, but felt that sometimes the first game is the hardest and to just get over the hump.

“I think there are a lot of positives for us coming out,” Turner Thorne said.

Arizona State will face Oregon State in the quarterfinals. The two games between them in the regular season have seen senior forward Marie Gülich take over the game in late stretches.

When asked how to stop her and the rest of the team Turner Thorne said, “Wouldn't you like to know ... come tomorrow night.”

The Sun Devils will play the nightcap of Friday's game against the No. 3 seed Oregon State Beavers for an opportunity to play in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament. 

Reach the reporter at or follow @SebastianEman24 on Twitter. 

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