In the second and final matchup of the season between two rivals, the game that promised fireworks did not disappoint, as ASU women’s basketball's 16-rebound advantage helped propel the Sun Devils to a 60-47 home win.
Mere hours after the smoke cleared from ASU’s men’s basketball team securing a 95-88 overtime win over in-state rivals Arizona, the Wells Fargo Arena was once again the stage for No. 21-ranked ASU and Arizona women's basketball.
Both teams overcame slow offensive performances in the first half, but ASU’s 12-point halftime lead was just too much to overcome for Arizona, as the team ran out of steam after an exciting third quarter which saw them cut the lead to just four points, thanks to a 22-point third quarter – nine more points than the Wildcats had in the entire first two quarters combined.
Arizona’s Aari McDonald shook off a scary-looking collision toward the end of the first half and willed the Wildcats back into the game with 21 of her game-high 28 points in the last two quarters.
Even though McDonald had a routine night considering her season so far, her teammates failed to carry the rest of the load, as the next leading scorer for the visiting Wildcats was Sam Thomas, with five points, with the next highest scorers being Tee Tee Starks and Bryce Nixon, who pitched in three points each.
Even with McDonald pitching in her usual amount of points on the night, the Wildcats were completely one-dimensional on offense, relying on McDonald to not only score but also create for the rest of her teammates.
The surprise factor of McDonald seems to have worn off, as other teams around the Pac-12 have multiple games on tape to try and plan for Arizona’s one-woman scoring machine. If the Wildcats want to be the tournament team that they looked like at the start of Pac-12 play, they have to find ways to get their secondary scorers opportunities to contribute.
Arizona State dropped its first matchup with Arizona in late December, never gaining the lead as the Wildcats pressured the Sun Devils off the court. This was not the case on Friday night, as the Wildcats were bullied inside for most of the night, unable to take advantage of ASU’s depth in the front court. The Sun Devils were led by Courtney Ekmark, who had 20 points and seven assists, while Kianna Ibis put up a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
For Arizona head coach Adia Barnes and Co., this game, much like the men’s game last night, was a true measuring stick of where the team is and where it’s headed. With the loss on Friday night, Arizona drops to 4-6 in Pac-12 play and currently sits on the bottom half of the standings in eighth place after starting conference play 2-1, with both wins coming against ranked opponents.
Follow David Skinner on Twitter