Jaddan Simmons leads ASU women's basketball to victory over USC

The Sun Devils won their Pac-12 opener despite an offensive cold spell down the stretch

ASU women's basketball remained undefeated (4-0) on Friday night, defeating USC 63-58 in its Pac-12 opener in Tempe.

The Sun Devils were led by freshman guard Jaddan Simmons who finished the night with a career-high 20 points on five of 11 shooting. Simmons also sunk pivotal free throws down the stretch to ice the game for her team.

Simmons' three free throws were the only points ASU scored in the final 3:44 of the game.

After the game, ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne noted the confidence she has in the freshman.

"Jaddan is special. It's not surprising to any of us," Turner Thorne said. "The kid can put the ball in the basket. She's just got really good poise and a great competitive spirit."

With the team struggling to score down the stretch, Turner Thorne asked her team in the huddle who should get the ball with the game on the line, and a few of her players responded with one answer.

"A couple of players said Jaddan," Turner Thorne said. "That was really cool. They knew who was getting the best looks and who was attacking."

Simmons has steadily improved in each of the first four games of her collegiate career, something she attributes to her increased confidence and getting adjusted to the pace of play.

"I think this game, I just was being more aggressive than the last three, and I think when I play aggressive, I play my best," Simmons said. "I think my conditioning and just talking has helped me improve a lot. As we go on, it's just getting easier and easier to play with my teammates."

The Sun Devils got off to a sluggish start in the first quarter but were able to gain control of the game due to a dominating second period where they outscored the Trojans 19-5. 

Turner Thorne credited the slow start to a hectic week on and off the court. 

"We played Monday, we had finals all week, and it looked like it when we started the game," Turner Thorne said. "We were just low energy, and you could see some mental and physical fatigue."

The Sun Devils' lead got all the way up to 15, but the offense slowed down midway through the third quarter, eventually allowing USC back into the game. 

Senior forward Bre'yanna Sanders, who finished Friday's game with six points and eight rebounds, said Friday's victory was a good lesson for the team.

"No team in the Pac-12 will ever just let up, so that was a great opportunity for us to learn that early in the season," Sanders said.

Turner Thorne says a big part of her team's undefeated start is due to its mental fortitude, even despite some offensive struggles.

"We didn't feel like we played particularly well at all, and for us to get any win in the Pac-12 is amazing," Turner Thorne said. "A lot of this winning right now is about toughness."  

ASU will prepare for it's toughest test early in the season with No. 9 UCLA coming into Desert Financial Arena on Dec. 6 at 2 p.m. MST.

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

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