(Photo: Brooke Faber/WCSN)
It was a sloppy season opener for the Arizona State Sun Devils as they ultimately fell to No. 18 Kentucky 68-64.
At the end of the first half ASU was up 29-17 over Kentucky. ASU’s halftime lead was due largely impart to the play of guard Arnecia Hawkins, who hit two three-point shots in the second quarter and forward Sophie Brunner’s seven points — five of which came in the first quarter.
Throughout the whole game, the sloppy play was constant. They are still working out all of the kinks, and trying to figure out how they all fit together. ASU cannot settle for this level of play for long, especially with all of the experience this veteran team has.
The clean defensive play of the Sun Devils did not produce clean offensive play. While ASU forced 18 turnovers they still only had 10 points off of those turnovers. In this matchup, ASU gave up 20 turnovers and allowed Kentucky to score 19 off of those turnovers. Starting senior guards Elisha Davis and Katie Hempen for Arizona State combined for a 9-9 assist to turnover ratio.
Before the fourth quarter ASU’s defense did an excellent job of holding Kentucky’s leading scorer Makayla Epps to two points in the first half. Epps got into foul trouble early; she left the game with 6:27 left in the first quarter and didn’t return again until the beginning of the second half. She was held to only four points with five minutes left in regulation- but came out strong when it counted most, finishing with 20 points.
One of the biggest struggles ASU faced coming into this game was size differential. Kentucky only has three players on its roster under six feet. While ASU has eight players under six feet on its roster. The Sun Devils did what they could to limit the Wildcats points in the paint to 44 and keeping their two forwards Alexis Jennings and Evelyn Akhator to a combined 13 points.
Junior forward Sophie Bruner stepped up for ASU in this game, she went 3-3 from behind the arch, contributing to her 19 points. Behind her seven rebounds and scrappy play she changed the game for the Sun Devils who would have had a much harder time against this talented Kentucky team without her.
While cleaner play and consistency will come with increased team chemistry as ASU moves further into the season, the Sun Devils will need to work on making smarter decisions – which with this veteran squad should not be a big problem.
In the end Epps and this young talented Kentucky team proved to be just a little too much for Sophie Brunner this veteran ASU squad. The Sun Devils are now 0-1, and will travel to Dallas to take on SMU on November 21.