To initiate the Pacific-12 Conference women’s basketball season, No. 17 Arizona State took advantage of 20 points off 26 turnovers to defeat No. 19 California, 57-49, Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena. Sophie Brunner led the Sun Devils (10-3, 1-0) with 16 points, with Katie Hempen and Quinn Dornstauder each adding 14, while freshman center Kristine Anigwe recorded 22 points and 13 rebounds for the Golden Bears (9-3, 0-1).
“We worked hard and played good team defense,” ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “At halftime, we said, ‘13 of our 14 paint touches, we scored on.’ We managed the clock well. If we have a four-possession lead with a couple of minutes left, we’re pretty confident.”
Coach Turner Thorne praised her senior point guard Elisha Davis. The 5-foot-3 Davis logged the most minutes on the team, and despite being 0-for-9 in shooting, dished nine assists and was invaluable in her presence.
“Our emphasis was to bring them the pressure,” Davis said. “It made them hesitant and unsure to force those turnovers. In many games we had big leads and gave it away, so in conference, any win is a great win. My whole life I’ve learned that scoring is not the key (referring to her presence). They were dog tired in the first quarter (in terms of depth), and we were bringing in another five, I’m glad I’m on this side.”
After finishing the first quarter ahead, 18-10, ASU went up by as many as 20 in the late second. Cal kept chipping at the lead, but whenever the game went into single digits, there was always a big play from the Sun Devils on the other end. A big three from Gabby Green being answered with a bomb from Hempen comes to mind. Meanwhile, for Brunner, it was her fourth game back since missing six with an injury, as she led the team with seven rebounds.
“I feel good, and we just did really well helping each other today, overall it was a good team win,” Brunner said. “We knew their biggest thing was second chance points and transition, so if we stopped that, we would have a chance.”
The 6-foot-4 Anigwe, who is from Phoenix’s Desert Vista High School, has been one of the nation’s premier first-year players. Averaging around 22 points and nine rebounds, she scored 43 and 12 in 24 minutes last month versus Sacramento State.
“She’s a really talented player, it was a good matchup and really exciting,” said Dornstauder, who went up against Anigwe in the paint. “We did a really good job of taking advantage of our numbers.”
Last week’s Pac-12 Player of the Week, Arnecia Hawkins, added nine points and five steals for the Sun Devils, while Courtney Range scored eight for Cal. Green also had five assists and four steals, and Asha Thomas collected five assists for the Bears.
“I think that was one of the most formidable inside games for our offense,” Turner Thorne said. “They’re ready to help us based on the experience they had in the preseason. Sophie and Quinn, as effective as they were, can be even more effective. We could get to a 10-player rotation, but we’re still working towards it.”
Monday at 6 p.m., the Sun Devils will host the perennial conference favorites – No. 11 Stanford. Although in a down year compared to past seasons, the Cardinal (11-2) obliterated the Wildcats (9-4), 59-34, Saturday in Tucson. Each team looking for one win this weekend, California is at Arizona at 8 p.m. Monday.