Despite a 28-point performance from Arizona’s lead scorer, ASU basketball limited McDonald to only 36 percent from the field in a 13-point victory.
Typically for any basketball player at any level, a 28-point game is something to be celebrated.
But for Arizona State, it was holding Aari McDonald to 28 points that led them to a 60-47 victory Friday night.
The Sun Devils backed strong defensive performances from guards Reili Richardson and Kiara Russell to limit McDonald to 8-for-22 shooting from the field, and 1-for-6 from deep.
ASU bullied the Wildcats guard inside the paint and kept the rest of Arizona to only 19 total points, to split this year’s Territorial Cup to one apiece.
On the night, McDonald couldn’t find her groove and the team reflected in a lack of scoring.
“We came in with the mindset to not let anyone get started, but she’s (McDonald) is a great player and she’s going to get what she got,” said senior Kianna Ibis. “We had to make sure it wasn’t everyone that got on.”
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McDonald finished nearly perfect from the line at 11-for-12, but missed 14 shots from the field, including a pair of late threes, that could have flipped the momentum Arizona’s way.
After suffering a 51-39 loss earlier in the season to in-state rival Arizona, the Sun Devils knew where their defensive focus needed to be.
McDonald, a 5-foot-7 guard from Fresno, California, has been near impossible to guard for opposing teams this season.
Entering the game, McDonald was averaging 25.2 points per game, a mark second in the nation and the key focal point of a high-volume Arizona offense.
But after surrendering 24 points to McDonald in their first matchup, ASU designed a game plan to limit the dribble penetration from the guard. That suffocating paint defense limited McDonald to seven points at the half.
“I thought we did a really good job on McDonald for most of the game,” said coach Charli Turner Thorne. “That was key: to do it early. You knew we weren’t going to shut her down, but do it early and build a cushion.”
The team also held Arizona to only 13 points in the half, and limited the Wildcats to only 25 percent shooting from the field. Although McDonald did crack the 20-point barrier by the end of the third quarter, her team had only combined to manage 14 points.
By the end of the fourth quarter, the Sun Devils had taken McDonald completely out of the equation and the second leading scorer for the Wildcats only had five.
“We brought it up with Kiki [Kiara Russell] and Reili (Richardson), if you able to a great job on her (McDonald), we’re going to win,” said Turner Thorne. “I thought they both did a great job, even when you can’t shut her down completely.”
The Sun Devils (15-6, 6-4 Pac-12) continue play next week on the road, facing off with Washington State Thursday and Washington on Saturday.
All quotes in this article were obtained firsthand by Devils in Detail unless otherwise noted.