Hanson, Simmons and dominant defense lead @SunDevilWBB over Southern Utah
TEMPE, Ariz. – Taya Hanson (15 points) and Jaddan Simmons (13 points) combined for 28 points and contributed to an outstanding team effort on the defensive end to help the Sun Devil women's basketball team defeat Southern Utah 55-44 on Monday.
Monday's game against the Thunderbirds was ASU's seventh in 52 days, a dramatic change in pace from the opening month of the season when the Sun Devils played eight contests in 24 days.
ASU's most recent interruption came last week after having its contests at the Oregon schools postponed, its sixth and seventh games to be shelved by COVID-19 protocol. To prevent another prolonged pause from competition the Sun Devils went out of conference and found a willing opponent in Southern Utah, a formidable foe from the Big Sky Conference that agreed to meet ASU on Monday in Tempe.
The product of each team having little prep time for the opposition was a competitive affair that reached its zenith when the Sun Devils (9-6) had their 12-point lead trimmed to four points following a basket by the Thunderbirds (8-5) 20 seconds into the fourth quarter.
As they've done multiple times this season, the Sun Devils responded to a fourth-quarter challenge with grit and a refuse-to-lose mentality. With the Thunderbirds still well within striking distance – down by five – with 6:25 remaining, the Sun Devils answered with a 10-1 run to clinch their ninth win of the season and their 30th consecutive win over a non-conference opponent in Desert Financial Arena.
Katelyn Levings started the sequence after taking a pass from Hanson and scoring on a fast break layup. Jamie Loera's triple once again gave ASU a double-digit lead, 48-38, with under five minutes left.
A short time later, back-to-back buckets by Eboni Walker and Loera gave ASU its biggest lead of the game, 53-39 with 2:23 remaining.
On the defensive end, ASU closed the game by allowing Southern Utah to make only one of its last nine shots.
Simmons, who had a team-high four assists, was responsible for much of ASU's early success as the freshman guard scored 11 of her 13 points in the first three quarters.
Hanson, who led or tied for the team lead in scoring for the eighth time this season, was equally effective with her defending as she had a career-high five steals – the most by a Sun Devil this season – to go with five rebounds.
Walker led ASU's effort on the boards, helping the Sun Devils finish plus-four after grabbing seven rebounds.
Also providing ASU with solid contributions were Levings, who scored six points and had a career-high three steals, and Loera, who scored five of her seven points during the Sun Devil scoring run that sealed the win.
The Sun Devils opened and closed the game with stifling defense as the Thunderbirds combined to make only 27 percent of their shots (6-22) in the first and fourth quarters.
The Sun Devils resume Pac-12 play on Friday (5 p.m. MST) when they host Washington. The game can be seen on Pac-12 Arizona/Washington and heard on KAZG 1440 AM.