The ASU women's basketball team has struggled all season to begin games with the proper level of intensity.
In nine of the team's 10 Pac-12 games, ASU has ended the first quarter trailing by six or more points. The team shot under 50% from the field in the first quarter in each of its 10 conference games.
In a few of these instances, the team was able to storm back and win. But against some of the tougher Pac-12 opponents, these rough starts have made coming back an uphill climb.
The Sun Devils' tendency to fall behind quickly in games continues to frustrate head coach Charli Turner Thorne, who has made multiple fruitless attempts to fix the issue.
"They just don't know how to get themselves ready," Turner Thorne said. "They start the game and they just aren't locked in. I've been doing this a long time and I don't know if I have had a team that was this consistent with slow starts."
The Sun Devils are chock-full of youth this season. The team has only one senior on the roster and their lone returning starter from last season, junior forward Jayde Van Hyfte, was injured in the season opener and hasn't played since.
In a typical season, Turner Thorne likes to rely on her seniors to set the tone early in games and in practice, something she says has been missing from the team.
"I have never had a team this young. There's nobody every day in practice that has been there and done it before," Turner Thorne said.
Recently, Turner Thorne changed the beginning of the team's pregame and practice regimen to mimic a more game-like intensity from the start, but even that hasn't worked to this point.
"We wait to get a kick before we become aggressive because once we're down, that punch in the face wakes us up and reminds us of how hard we need to play," junior guard Taya Hanson said. "We've been digging a grave, our own grave, at the beginning of these games, and it's kind of tough."
As one of the team's few leaders and its leading scorer, Hanson has tried to jumpstart herself and her teammates early in games but admits it's still a major work in progress.
"Something that I'm really trying to do right off the bat is bring that sense of energy," Hanson said. "But as a leader on this team, accountability is huge, and so I think that's an area where I'm going to need to grow in."
One thing possibly contributing to the team's inconsistency from game-to-game and quarter-to-quarter has been the stop and start nature of its season because of several postponements due to COVID-19. Seven games have been postponed thus far, with ASU's matchups versus Oregon and Oregon State being the most recent games to be postponed.
It has prevented the Sun Devils from having their full complement of players in practice and limited their ability to play with preferred lineups consistently.
"We haven't really been able to, you know, get that rhythm," junior guard Jamie Loera said. "At the end of the day, (it) just comes down to us and how we respond to it."
Sitting in eighth place in the Pac-12 standings, ASU doesn't have much time to fix its first-quarter issues as conference play heats up. Turner Thorne hopes getting her team back to full strength and additional practice time can spark her team down the stretch of the season.
"There's a lot of built-in excuses right now, and I'm tired of articulating them, you know, we've just got to get better," Turner Thorne said.
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