ASU basketball avenged their earlier loss to Arizona winning 60-47 as the Sun Devils held the Wildcats to a season-low 47 points.
Arizona State started the second half of Pac-12 play with a strong defensive 60-47 victory over rival Arizona.
After the Sun Devils’ worst offensive performance of the season came in Tucson, they wanted to prove that they still had the upper hand over the Wildcats.
“They got one on us,” said senior Courtney Ekmark after scoring a team-high 20 points. “So that motivated us more to come out and restore the order tonight.”
ASU has an interesting schedule down the stretch, which includes very winnable games against the Washington schools and Colorado, squads with three of the four worst records in the Pac-12.
After that, the gauntlet begins. Utah, Cal, Stanford, Oregon State and Oregon: four ranked teams, three top-10 squads and a Golden Bears team that fell to the Devils by one in Tempe this year.
Beating Arizona was vital to make sure ASU entered that stretch with the best chance to land the seeds it is striving for. But it has to keep going and play up to its standards over the next three games.
The goal for ASU should be to finish with a top-four record in the conference and a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament.
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If the Devils can avoid playing on the first day in Las Vegas, it will be a major accomplishment given where they stand.
At 6-4 they are fifth in the stacked Pac-12, with no team in the top four with more than two losses. Rest could be vital in the Pac-12 Tournament given the conference’s depth, and the Devils will need one of the top teams to fall off in order to attain more of it.
As for the NCAA Tournament, ASU was marked as a fifth-seed after last weekend by ESPN’s “Bracketology”. In order to improve that, the next three games need to be wins, and ASU will need to knock off a few of its final opponents. The key to doing so may have made itself more clear against the Wildcats.
Friday night, the Devils had some strong offensive outputs from Ekmark and Kianna Ibis, who scored her 1000th career point and finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
But the efforts on the other end of the floor and on the glass were what gave them the edge as Arizona scored just 13 points in the first half.
“At this point in the season, the scoring goes down,” head coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “It’s that time of year where there won’t be a lot of transition and the scores will go down, so rebounding and defense, they matter a lot and I thought we really brought those today. I was especially happy about our rebounding effort because we hadn’t been rebounding the way we had against Louisville and I thought we got back there today.”
Against tougher competition, gaining an advantage on the boards can prove vital. Against the now No. 3 (probably moving up) Cardinals, ASU’s rebounding effort gave them an upper hand, especially on the offensive glass.
Against Arizona, ASU grabbed 18 offensive boards to the Wildcats’ four. ASU’s defense is its strong suit, so if it can put up more shots than its opponents, that could potentially be a deciding factor in how ASU’s season ends up.
The daunting stretch is quick approaching, and in order to earn its desired seeds, ASU will need to keep up their “fierce determination,” as senior Charnea Johnson-Chapman said, through the rest of the season.
All quotes in this article were obtained firsthand by Devils in Detail unless otherwise noted.