By Lindsay Gaesser, SDA Media Relations
Tucson, Ariz. –– Five days after a 24-point win over the University of Arizona, the No. 11 Arizona State women’s basketball team was unable to keep pace with the same Wildcat team on Sunday as Arizona upset ASU, 68-49, in the second of back-to-back Territorial Cup® Series games.
The Wildcat duo of Carissa Crutchfield (20 points) and Erica Barnes (14 points) combined for half of Arizona’s point total as the Wildcats (5-18, 1-11 Pac-12) were able to get their first win over ASU (20-4, 9-3) since 2011.
Except for an early 8-8 tie, ASU trailed Arizona the entire game. The Wildcats outscored the Sun Devils 36-18 in the paint, and shot 55 percent from the field compared to only 32 percent for ASU.
“We’ve had issues with giving up too many shots in the paint all year,” said ASU head Coach Charli Turner Thorne. “We gave it up every which way today. We gave it up on offensive rebounds. We didn’t finish on defense. We gave it up just not denying the posts –– they had too many direct post feeds. We gave it up playing soft and letting the guards get in and pick up shots.”
The Sun Devils struggled to find their rhythm throughout the contest. After a scoreless three-and-a-half minutes to start the game, the Sun Devils nabbed three quick points – a free throw by Katie Hempen and a bucket from Eliza Normen – to cut their early deficit to 4-3.
Although ASU kept Arizona’s lead to single digits the entire half, the Sun Devils couldn’t seem to consistently find success on either end of the court. Despite ASU’s lopsided win on Tuesday, Turner Thorne made it clear her team knew it was in for a tough game. Still, the team did not respond with the sense of urgency or focus that it had in recent wins in which it fell behind.
“I don’t think we were all there, period,” said Turner Thorne. “It wasn’t that we took UA lightly, because we know how big of a game this is. We know there are no easy games in our conference, but for whatever reasons we just did not bring the effort or the focus. We were not taking things away, and we were not connected defensively. We let Arizona get comfortable and do the things that they wanted to do. Offensively we weren’t connected or executing our plays. The focus was just not there.”
For all that didn’t go their way in the first half, the Sun Devils managed to trail by only six, 30-24, at the break. Deja Mann scored eight of her team-high 15 points to lead ASU during the first 20 minutes.
The Wildcats started the half with an 11-4 run to go up by 13. Ultimately, the run proved to be too much for ASU to overcome as it could never get within single digits the remainder of the game.
“I give credit to U of A—they made shots and they outworked us—they did a great job,” said Turner Thorne. “That said, we didn’t do the things we’ve been doing. We didn’t defend the way we needed to defend, and offensively we were just not doing the things that we can do and were supposed to do. Arizona made us work harder. We just didn’t have that toughness today.”
Sunday’s game at Arizona began a stretch that has the Sun Devils playing five of their final seven regular season games on the road. The schedule becomes even more demanding later this week when the Sun Devils travel to the Bay area to take on third-ranked Stanford and No. 23 Cal.
“We have done a good job of bouncing back,” said Turner Thorne. “We haven’t lost a lot this year, but now we go to play at Stanford and at Cal. We’ve put ourselves in a pretty tough situation when you have four of your last six games on the road against three of the four upper-half teams (in the Pac-12). It’s going to be challenging, but we’ll find out what we’re made of.
“This is what it’s about. You have to be playing your best basketball and you have to be ready to battle every possession, and we haven’t been doing that. I think this is a huge wake-up call for our team. If we want to be dancing in March, we have to start playing with better execution and a lot more effort.”
“We just have to get back to work,” added freshman forward Kelsey Moos, who led ASU in rebounds (7) to go along with six points. “We have to get into practice and work hard the entire time we’re in there. We can’t work hard on certain drills and then just take the other ones off. We have to give 120 percent every practice so that we can bring 120 percent in the games, because we’ve been getting away from that.”
The Sun Devils’ two-game road trip to the Bay Area begins on Friday night when they face Stanford (7 p.m. PT/8 p.m. MT).