Shooting struggles and a porous defense downs ASU basketball as Arizona’s Aari McDonald dominates with 24 points.
One season removed from being swept in the Territorial Cup series, Arizona took home a commanding victory over No. 17 Arizona St. Sunday night.
In a shocking upset, the Wildcats defeated the Sun Devils 51-39. With the victory the Wildcats improved to 11-1 (1-0 Pac-12) on the season, while the Sun Devils dropped to 9-3 (0-1 Pac-12).
The Wildcats opened the game with a 7-0 run and never looked back. The team outscored the Sun Devils in each quarter and never trailed a single minute in the game.
Leading the way for Arizona was redshirt sophomore Aari McDonald, who had a game-high 23 points on 9-for-17 shooting. McDonald came into the game, ranked fifth in the NCAA for scoring and has been the key of the Wildcats offense averaging 24.2 points per game.
Along with her 23 points, McDonald chipped in six rebounds, three assists and two steals as the Sun Devil defense struggled to keep her contained.
The victory marked only the fifth win for Arizona in the last 32 meetings between the in-state rivals. ASU had dominated the series in recent years, sweeping the Wildcats in three of the last four seasons.
On the Sun Devil side of the basketball, it was struggles from deep that hurt the team and a lack of offensive execution on all aspects of the court. The team finished only 13-for-56 from the field (23 percent) and 4-for-23 (17 percent) from three.
Perhaps the biggest struggles of the contest came from senior sharpshooter Courtney Ekmark.
Ekmark missed her first seven field goals and didn’t make her first basket until midway through the third quarter. Overall, Ekmark finished the contest 1-for-10 from the field and 1-for-8 from deep.
Only one of the Sun Devil starters finished in double-digit scoring. Kianna Ibis, who had 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting and like much of the team, struggled to find her rhythm from the field.
ASU outrebounded Arizona 38-30 with 17 offensive rebounds on the contest. But it was the Wildcat’s stifling inside defense that limited those second chance opportunities and forced 17 Sun Devil turnovers.
After seeing the early struggles of ASU from outside, Arizona coach Adia Barnes switched her team into a 2-3 zone, which pushed the Sun Devils to force outside shots.
This ultimately led to the Wildcats taking a seven-point lead at the half, which grew to eight by the end of the third. After a dominant fourth, Arizona took its largest lead of the night 51-36 with 1:04 left in the game before closing out the final buzzer with a 51-39 lead.
Moving forward ASU continues a three-game road trip taking on the Utah Utes (12-0, 1-0 Pac-12) Jan. 4 at 7 p.m. MT.