(Photo Credit: Brooke Faber/WCSN)
The Arizona State Women’s Basketball team opened up their 2014-2015 season with a 81-67 victory at home against Middle Tennessee State.
From the tip there was a noticeable amount of physical play taking place all over the court. It seemed like there were at least two or three bodies hitting the floor on every possession, and both teams struggled to score in the early going.
Even with the low point totals, ASU still looked in control from the start as they played some solid defense, and got good looks at the rim but just failed to convert. Katie Hempen got the scoring revved up after knocking down her first three-point attempt of the year on her way to a 14-point performance.
When asked about her strong shooting performance Hempen said, “Honestly I just wasn’t even thinking…I’ve put in a lot of work with my teammates and they were working hard to get me the ball and had confidence in my shot.”
After that, the Sun Devils looked much more comfortable on offense. Elisha Davis acted as the floor general throughout the game, distributing the ball while flashing an improved scoring ability, contributing 14 points in addition to her 6 assists on the night.
Hempen and sophomore forward Sophie Brunner tallied 10 points in the first half to lead ASU, as they shot a combined 50% from the floor and got the Devils out to an early lead.
Brunner was one board from having a double- double in just one half, collecting ten points and nine rebounds in the first. She also played a big role in the physicality mentioned earlier, as she both and received and dished out some hard hits that sent players to the ground. With that physical play down low, she was able to draw plenty of fouls, and knocked down her freebies from the stripe. The young forward turned out the most impressive stat line of the night, finishing with 20 points and 12 boards.
On the other side, Middle Tennessee really struggled to shoot the ball early, and aside for a 19 point scoring output from Olivia Jones, the Blue Raiders looked to find a way to get shots to fall in the first. Even with Arizona State playing formidable defense, MTSU still got open looks under the rim from offensive rebound, but just couldn’t get anything to hit.
ASU got out to a 39-27 lead over the Blue Raiders at the half, with the starting five accounting for all but seven of those points. Arnecia Hawkins however stepped up big time for the ASU bench, scoring 8 total points and looked to be teams main offensive threat outside of the starting five.
Brunner was one board from having a double- double in just one half, collecting ten points and nine rebounds in the first. She also played a big role in the physicality mentioned earlier, as she both and received and dished out some hard hits that sent players to the ground. She was able to get to the line 12 times, making 10 of her shots from the stripe.
While the amount of sloppiness and jitters seemed to die down in the second, ASU kept pressing on offense and on D, maintaining about a ten-point cushion until they began to run away with it leading 69-49 with 7:34 left in regulation.
Even as the Devils began to seize the win, the two teams kept up the physical style of play with every loose ball resulting in a rugby style struggle for possession.
When asked whether or not that rough style of play is something that the team enjoys, Brunner said, “It’s not something we don’t like, it just tires you out, you just have to play through it.” Hempen added “We go through it in practice everyday, our scouts are pretty aggressive and they help us prepare for it.”
Brunner and Hempen both cooled off a bit after they both had red-hot first halves but the cast of Moos, Davis and Hawkins kept the offense going in the 2nd carrying ASU to the 14 point win to start 2014 (1-0).
Not much to say about the end of this one. No heart pounding finish or buzzer beating miracle at Wells Fargo tonight. Just a dominating performance for Charli Turner-Thorne’s team, and a great win to kick off this young season.
ASU takes on CSU Bakersfield next Wednesday in Tempe. The Sun Devils will try to carry the momentum from this game into that one, as they take the first steps to acquiring a coveted a spot in the NCAA tournament in March.