It is no secret that the ASU women's basketball team has struggled this season. After starting out hot with a 6-1 record, the Sun Devils were bombarded with injuries and bad luck.
During a two-game swing versus Colorado and Utah on Jan. 13-15, they were forced to forfeit due to a lack of scholarship players available.
"We have players playing out of position," head coach Natasha Adair said. "They might have been recruited to be a two and now they're a four. Kayla (Mokwuah) might've gotten her first two fouls and now Treasure (Hunt) has to play the five. It is what it is."
With all the injuries it has faced this season, building chemistry and continuity has been hard for the team, as most of the players have been working with unexpected lineups. Adair said that it changes on a per-game basis and that the team has to practice unconventional methods so that they are prepared for when something happens in a game.
"We only had one practice this whole season where it was us versus us because we had ten at that point," Adair said. "It's really hard to simulate those things when you don't have the bodies."
ASU has had a lot of roster turnaround as well. The team lost five seniors and a graduate student from last season and gained three transfers. Add that to the injuries, and it's no wonder why the team has struggled.
"We're always going to play with who we have, so I don't think that's an excuse for us," said junior guard Jaddan Simmons following a loss to UA on Jan. 22. "But at the end, it does slip away but that's why we're learning, we're a young team, new players and all of that, so I think we just gotta figure out how to get over that hump and I think we will be fine."
ASU's season came to a close on Wednesday after losing in a heartbreaker to UCLA in overtime. The Sun Devils were trailing by 10 going into the fourth quarter before coming back to tie the game at 62-62. However, the Sun Devils didn't complete the comeback, eventually falling 81-70.
Following the loss, Adair had very simple remarks about the team in the locker room, "I'm proud of them ... I'm proud of their resilience. I'm proud of their fight."
Adair said she believes they have laid the groundwork for successful seasons, but before that, they have to get healthy.
"Before I even say what we need to work on we need to know who we're working on it with," Adair said. "I want us to be better defensively, I want us to lead the league in rebounding, I want us to score in transition, those things will never change, but for us to be that team we have to be our healthiest."
Despite the tough season, the Sun Devils have kept their heads high the whole year. Before their weekend swing against Oregon and Oregon State, Adair showed the team a highlight tape of the good things the team had done this season.
"It was a reminder of you did it," Adair said. "After the outcome isn't what you wanted over and over again, that can set in. Just reminding them that this is you. You did this."
The tape seemed to work, as ASU picked up their first conference victory over Oregon State that weekend. Adair said that the team was calm on the court but once they got to the locker room they exploded with excitement.
She also spoke on how the team kept their composure on the court because they wanted to get used to the feeling of being a winner.
"We want to win, but as you can see we are getting better and that's all that matters … we're going to keep fighting, we're not going to give up," said Skinner after a loss to the University of Washington in late January.
According to Adair, the recruiting process has gone well for the Sun Devils, and if they can get their players healthy again, they expect to play at the level they did to start the season.
Edited by Kathryn Field, Reagan Priest and Anusha Natarajan.