Defense, rebounding leads ASU women's basketball to gritty victory over VCU

The Sun Devils grabbed 26 offensive rebounds during Friday night's victory

ASU women's basketball survived shooting just 23% from the field to defeat VCU on Friday afternoon in Tempe. Despite it being the second consecutive game chalked full of offensive struggles, the Sun Devils improved at 2-0 by a score of 49 to 40. 

A big factor in Friday's victory was the Sun Devils' domination of the offensive glass. ASU had 26 offensive rebounds compared to VCU's 9. Due to all of these second chances, ASU attempted 23 more shots than VCU.

ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne said crashing the boards is part of the team's DNA.

"We love rebounding period," Turner Thorne said. "We always say our best offense is our second shot. People know in our program that if you rebound, you are going to play."

One player who helped the Sun Devils on the glass was sophomore forward Eboni Walker. Walker finished the game with 13 points and 13 rebounds, her second consecutive double-double to start the season. Walker shines when it comes to finding the ball on offensive rebounds and loose balls.

"I take pride in doing what I can for the team," Walker said. "If that's saving a possession, that's flying out of bonds or saving a rebound after they miss a shot, that's what I'm going to do."

Turner Thorne said she's seen Walker improve drastically since the end of her freshman season last March.

"She's just playing hard more consistently. Her defense is getting better," Turner Thorne said. "Eboni is just better all the way around. She's better at everything this year."

A big turning point in Friday's contest was when sophomore guard Sydnei Caldwell took charges on back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter. Both plays ignited Caldwell and the Sun Devil bench and ultimately helped secure the victory.

Caldwell also hit some timely buckets down the stretch to add to her defensive play.

"That's just what Sun Devil women's basketball is all about," Caldwell said. "Digging deep and getting a stop whether the ball is going in or not."

"If she doesn't come in and step up like that, I don't know if we take that game," Turner Thorne said about the sequence.

Caldwell, who struggled in the first game of the season against Stephen F. Austin, was frustrated heading into Friday's game, according to Turner Thorne.

"She was beside herself after the first game. She didn't play on either side of the ball," Turner Thorne said. "I was so proud of her to come back and play better defense and offense. I'm really happy for her because she works as hard as anybody preparing for teams."

Even with her team's putrid shooting performance through the first two games of the season, Turner Thorne remains confident the offense will come around.

"I'm not worried at all about our offense, because I know it's there," Turner Thorne said.

Turner Thorne attributes part of the struggles on that end have to factors outside of the team's control.

"How can you have the youngest team I've ever coached here at ASU, have a pandemic, have all new offensive stuff and think that you are going to come out of the gate and run it well?" Turner Thorne said. "That's totally unrealistic. We're being patient. It will come."

The Sun Devils will have one more game to iron out these struggles prior to the start of Pac-12 play at the end of next week. ASU will remain at home, hosting St. Mary's at 4 p.m. on Monday night at Desert Financial Arena.


Reach the reporter at ltochter@asu.edu and follow @Leo_Toch on Twitter.

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