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ASU women's basketball uses strong defensive effort to cruise past Wildcats

The Sun Devils sail past Wildcats thanks to efforts on defense


ASU sophomore guard Robbi Ryan (11) shoots a layup against Arizona's freshman forward Sam Thomas (14) during the first half of the Sun Devils' 76-47 victory over the Arizona Wildcats in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament on Thursday, March 1, 2018 at KeyArena in Seattle, Washington

During the regular season, the ASU women's basketball team could always count on its defense, so why would it be any different when the team entered the postseason. Coming into the Pac-12 Women's Basketball Tournament in Seattle, the Sun Devils had the best defense in the conference, holding opponents to 57.3 points per game.

So, when trouncing UA in their post-season game, it was only natural for ASU's defense to step up big in the 76-47 win.

In the first quarter, the Sun Devils only allowed two points and forced nine turnovers – one of their best defensive starts of the season.

Although the Sun Devils let up 18 points in the second quarter, the defense continued to force contested and bad shots as the Arizona field goal percentage stayed at 36 percent entering the half.

"We always emphasize being the more aggressive team and rebounding early," junior forward Kianna Ibis said. "We wanted to get into the post because we know we have a mismatch there –we tried to jump on them first."

The Sun Devils flexed their defensive muscles when Arizona tried to move the ball into the paint, as they kept the Wildcats to 22 points in the paint while scoring 48 themselves.

Sophomore guard Kiara Russell was a huge part of the post dominance, finishing a point and an assist shy of a double-double (nine points and nine rebounds), while also picking up three rebounds.

"They went to a smaller lineup," Russell said. "I just was able to get into the post."

The Sun Devils continued their defensive dominance by keeping Arizona off the board until 7:04 in the third quarter, but by that point, the Sun Devils already held a 44-22 lead.

ASU held the Wildcats to 42 percent shooting through the first three quarters of the game and outscored Arizona 57-36 entering the fourth quarter.

Yet one of the biggest keys to ASU's defensive dominance was the team's work on the glass. The Sun Devils out rebounded the Wildcats 33 to 19 on the game.

"We picked it up on the second half with the boards," head coach Charli Turner Thorne said. "We really controlled the boards in the second half."

Effort was way above the Sun Devil season average rebound margin of plus seven, which helped explain why there was such a large gap between the two teams.

The Sun Devils' effort on the glass also resonated on a historic level. The 19 rebounds the Wildcats grabbed were the fewest by the team in Pac-12 tournament history.

Of ASU's 33 rebounds, 22 came on the defensive glass preventing second chance points for the Wildcats, a concept that Turner Thorne has preached all season.

The Sun Devils also shined offensively last night. A big portion of the Sun Devil offense was on the fast break, as ASU scored 20 points on 17 turnovers.

ASU capped off one of their best defensive efforts of the season as the Wildcat offense was 1-7 to close out the game.

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