Arizona State women’s basketball near full strength in win over UTSA

Arizona State women’s basketball played shorthanded for most of the young season, but in the past two weeks the team has returned to full strength.

And veteran forward Jayde Van Hyfte’s long-awaited return against UTSA was the icing on the cake as the Sun Devils won Saturday’s opener 68-44 in the annual ASU Classic.

Van Hyfte has made a quick start to the season since suffering a knee injury against Stephen F. Austin in the opener of last season. Showing no signs of rust after 10 months out of basketball, Van Hyfte netted the team’s first layup and recorded a block within the first minute and a half of play. The senior went on to score six points in 14 minutes, while making his presence felt elsewhere with a steal and two rebounds. Jaddan Simmons clicked particularly well with Van Hyfte by assisting on three of Van Hyfte’s field goals.

“It’s been about 10 months since I had surgery so I felt ready and prepared and just excited to be back with my team and playing Sun Devil basketball again. ‘put on the jersey and go out there and give it your all,’ Van Hyfte said.

Arizona State dominated the first half, allowing UTSA 13 points, the lowest first-half total since Feb. 1, 2019, against Arizona. Building on 22 points in the first quarter, ASU held a 21-point lead before halftime. UTSA scored five points on just 11 field attempts in the second quarter.

Taya Hanson, along with Simmons, bolstered ASU’s offense as the two led the ranged offense with 10 points apiece. Hanson’s six rebounds paced the glass game which included ASU’s 38 rebounds (4-4), while Simmons dished out seven assists.

November 25, 2020;  Tempe, Arizona, USA;  Arizona State Sun Devils forward Jayde Van Hyfte (32) comes under pressure from Ladyjacks forward Aiyana Johnson (21) Stephen F. Austin and guard Alyssa Mayfield (2) during the season opener in Tempe.  Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-Arizona Republic

“I definitely missed Jayde there. It’s so exciting to have her back because we’ve been there for the first year together and to see how hard she’s worked since her injury. She persevered more than anyone than I know. I’m super proud of her and she brings the energy, she brings the toughness, and that’s what we need, so we’re happy to have her back,” Hanson said.

The dominance of defense and offense in the first half saw some cracks as ASU took fewer looks and allowed UTSA better shooting percentage. The Roadrunners rebounded from a 19% performance (5 for 27) in the first half to 34% in the second half (10 for 29). ASU struggled from the 3-point line in the second half, making just two of 10 attempts while shooting 44% from the field (11 for 25). ASU committed 11 turnovers in the second half, while only having seven in the first half.

“We went out, we were shooting the ball really well, and then we settled into that pattern. We just need to be more disciplined. We should have easily had more. We have wasted too many goods and too many turnovers. We have to learn to be patient,” ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne said.

It took time for ASU to find their rhythm in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter.

Hanson started the offense grabbing a defensive rebound and set up Katelyn Levings in transition to score ASU’s first layup in nearly four minutes. That streak helped ASU not go back to the 15-point difference seen three times in the quarter.

Arizona State calmed down in the final minutes, holding UTSA leading scorer LaPraisjah Johnson to eight points, while Charlene Mass led with 14 points on five field goals.

Near full strength, ASU saw eight players score six or more points. Mael Gilles remained consistent, grabbing five rebounds and eight points. Levings, Jade Loville and Isadora Sousa all had seven points.

Turner Thorne said what has helped the rebounding game recently is basing the top five on the team’s best rebounders. Van Hyfte’s return to the mix has also helped the new team as the Pac-12 game looms at the end of the month.

“Just her presence, she gives our team so much energy. I thought for not having played for over a year, she did a great job tonight. She will help this brand new team to come together a bit and will help us dig deep and play harder when we get tired,” said Turner Thorne.

Contact the reporter at [email protected] or 602-647-4122. Follow her on Twitter @jennarortiz.

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