ASU women's basketball wins 81-43 to kick off their season

The Sun Devils defeated the University of the Incarnate Word by a 38-point margin

The ASU women's basketball team came out of the starting gates in its 2018-19 season with an 81-43 blowout victory against the University of the Incarnate Word on Tuesday night.

It was a slow start for No. 23 ASU (1-0) as the team missed many solid opportunities and only led 14-7 after the first quarter. The Sun Devils used a quick-rotation pattern allowing them to stay fresh and ultimately find a groove, taking control offensively and defensively throughout the rest of the game.

When freshman guard Taya Hanson found herself open in the left corner, she decided to shoot her shot.

Hanson missed the shot but she didn’t let that bother her or diminish her confidence. Junior guard Robbi Ryan grabbed the rebound and passed to freshman forward Iris Mbulito, who quickly passed it back to Hanson who was still in the left corner.

When she caught the ball, Hanson found herself open again. She didn’t hesitate, making her second 3-pointer late in the second quarter, sparking momentum for herself and her teammates. Ultimately, the one collective team play was indicative of the team's season-opening victory against Incarnate Word.

Although it didn’t seem so with her confidence, Hanson said she had first-game jitters Tuesday night. Nonetheless, Hanson finished with 14 points, including four 3-pointers, three rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal to fill up the stat sheet.

“(My) first game playing DI for ASU, I mean, it is just an amazing opportunity,” Hanson said. “I am so thankful to be here. It was overwhelming and nerve-wracking at the start, and I did have some nerves. So, just having a game under my belt, I definitely feel more confident going into this season. But there is a lot of things I need to improve on.”

Although redshirt senior forward Courtney Ekmark played actively in the game's early stages, she wasn’t able to get a shot to fall at some early points. As the game progressed, Ekmark found her openings, but still couldn’t convert her chances, starting 0-for-7 from the field. 

However, early in the second quarter, Hanson and junior forward Jamie Ruden found a rhythm from the 3-point line as did Ekmark. With seconds left before halftime, Ekmark made her first shot, a 3-pointer from the right corner. Then she started the third quarter with back-to-back 3-pointers, finishing with 12 points.

After the game, Ekmark and her teammates laughed about her slow start. 

“I think I was just really excited to start, and I kept telling myself to relax,” Ekmark said. “I rushed the first couple (of shots) and then, the couple that I missed before that felt really good and I missed one in and out...I just kept shooting. Finally, I hit one and it felt really good.”

In the 38-point win, Ekmark said she was extremely happy that ASU got its game against Incarnate Word (0-1) before playing No. 4 Baylor on Sunday in Fort Defiance on national television. In the postgame interview session, Hanson and Ruden agreed, saying the team could have played much harder and committed less turnovers.

ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne echoed her players, saying she knows ASU has to improve to become an elite team moving forward. Turner Thorne noted her team has extremely high standards for this season, and the performance on Thursday caused a disappointing mood in the locker room, despite the victory.

“Our locker room was very somber,” Turner Thorne said. “We took this kind of almost like as a loss. We didn’t feel like we worked hard enough.”

Regardless, ASU earned its first win of the season and will now move on to face Baylor this Sunday at 5:30 p.m. MST.

Reach the reporter at or follow @NATE_HIATT on Twitter.

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