Bringing out the red home uniforms last night failed to work the same magic the University of Arizona women’s basketball team enjoyed the last time they played Arizona State.
The last time the Wildcats (7-7) wore red at home they pulled off a stunning upset win over their in-state rivals. That was last year when the Cats shocked then-No. 11-ranked ASU. That was also the last time Arizona beat a ranked opponent.
ASU (14-1) came into last night’s game ranked again, this time at No. 18 – but had no intention of allowing a repeat performance.
The visitors jumped out to a 7-0 lead and were up 17-3 by the time five minutes had gone by. Then the Sun Devils pushed their lead to 21-5, and head coach Niya Butts knew her team was in trouble.
Senior guard Candice Warthen broke the Devils’ momentum with a trey from behind the arc that made the score 21-8, but the rally was very short-lived as ASU opened their biggest lead at 25-8. The Cats were missing easy scoring opportunities, were plagued with turnovers and poor decisions, and had no answer for the Devils’ stifling defense.
Not only was Arizona ice cold from every spot on the floor, but ASU made sure they got just one shot on every trip down the floor.
A 24-point lead with 5 1/2 minutes left in the first half quickly ballooned to 30 by the time halftime arrived as the Sun Devils took a 44-14 lead into the locker room. They closed out the half with an 8-0 run to bury the Cats. Nine different players scored in the half and the team shot a sizzling 51 percent from the floor.
The only thing that changed in the second half was the scoring margin. ASU extended it.
In the first five minutes, the Devils climbed to a 53-17 lead, the largest margin in the game. By midway through the half, the Devils were up by 39 points and head coach Charli Turner Thorne cleared her bench.
And the driver began warming up the bus for the two-hour trip back to Tempe.
Final score: 88-41. It’s the sixth time this season ASU has put up 80 or more points.
ASU shot 59 percent from the floor and held the Wildcats to 27 percent. Katie Hempen and Promise Amukamara each scored 16 points to lead ASU, while Warthen topped Wildcat scorers with 13 points.
And the Sun Devils dominated in just about every category. They out-rebounded the Cats, 45-32, and collected 52 points in the paint, compared to 26 for Arizona. ASU got great support from its bench, which contributed 28 points, while Arizona got just seven points from its reserves.
In order to be successful, Arizona relies heavily on its fast-break transition game. ASU beat them at that, too, with 22 fast-break points to Arizona’s 12.
The good news is that Arizona can now put this embarrassing performance behind them and try to chalk it up as just an off night.
The bad news is that the Wildcats will have to play ASU again tomorrow – and that game will be in Tempe, where the Devils are even harder to beat. And, if they don’t find a way to deal with Arizona State’s dominating defense, there could be another off night on the horizon.
“I want to give Arizona State credit,” said Butts after the game. “They came in and they kicked out butts all over the court. There’s not a whole lot to be said for that, other than we better be ready to play Saturday.”
This loss means that Arizona will start the conference schedule in an 0-3 hole after losses at Washington and Washington State. ASU is 3-0 after beating the Washington schools and running its win streak to 10 games, which ties the second-best winning streak in school history. By beating the Cats a second time tomorrow they would set a new school record – which gives them additional motivation.
Last year’s upset of ASU turned out to be the only Pac-12 victory for the Cats, who finished the season 5-24.
And now they’re moving in that direction again.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)