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Sidebar: ASU women's basketball continues to embrace defensive identity

The Sun Devils rank second in the Pac-12 in scoring defense, allowing 58.2 PPG

ASU junior guard Reili Richardson keeps the ball away from the Wildcats during a game at the Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, Arizona, on Friday, Feb. 1, 2019.

Coming into Friday night's rematch with rival UA, the ASU women's basketball team ranked second in the Pac-12 in scoring defense at 58.2 PPG.

In the process of avenging its Dec. 30 loss to the Wildcats in Tucson, ASU once again notched a suffocating defensive performance. Pac-12 leading scorer Aari McDonald single-handedly kept the Wildcats afloat in the third quarter following a first half in which ASU held UA to 13 points, tied for the fewest points allowed in a half this season.

Outside of McDonald (25.2 PPG), who poured in 28 of the Wildcats' 47 points, the Sun Devils held the rest of the team to 19 points. 

"I'm excited for that defensive effort, especially in a big game like this," coach Charli Turner Thorne said. "I thought we did a really good job on McDonald for most of the game, and that was key to do it early. You knew you weren't going to shut her down. She's a great player."

The Sun Devils also registered eight steals in the win.

Friday's effort came on the heels of ASU's win over USC on Sunday, when it held the Trojans to 59 points on 34 percent shooting from the field. The team's defensive prowess has been on display all season and that intensity has translated to three wins in ASU's last four games.

"We're showing we can defend any team," redshirt senior forward Courtney Ekmark said, who scored 20 points and grabbed seven rounds versus the Wildcats.

As the Sun Devils prepare to face two of the three worst scoring offenses in the conference in Washington State and Washington next week, it's apparent that defense continues to be the team's identity. 

And as Turner Throne hinted, that will prove to be important down the stretch in Pac-12 play.

"You get to this point in the season ... the scoring goes down," Turner Thorne said. "It's that time of year."

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