TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona State’s defenders slid their feet, waved their arms, contested every inch of hardwood.
They stripped dribblers of the ball, tipped passes, harassed ball handlers into mistakes that often led to easy baskets at the other end.
Deep and relentless, the Sun Devils are tough to beat when they play defense like this.
Katie Hempen scored a career-high 23 points and hit five 3-pointers, and third-seeded Arizona State shut down Ohio’s free-flowing offense to roll over the Bobcats 74-55 in the Greensboro Region of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.
“When our defense turning people over and we’re getting buckets in transition, that’s absolutely when we’re at our best,” Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne. “We worked hard and I think our defense looked fantastic at times against a team that takes care of the ball.”
Arizona State (28-5) made the most of its first home NCAA Tournament game in a decade.
The Sun Devils got here behind their defense and were at their hounding best against the Bobcats, forcing 18 turnovers while holding one of the nation’s most prolific 3-point shooting teams to 4 of 16 behind the arc.
Arizona State had its way with the Bobcats offensively, too, shooting 55 percent while hitting 8 of 16 from 3-point range.
Sophie Brunner added 14 points for the Sun Devils, who will play 11th-seed Arkansas-Little Rock in the round of 32 on Monday.
“They’re tough, they’re going to try to outwork you,” Brunner said of UALR. “You can tell nothing really bothers them; they just make things work. It will be a tough matchup, but we’re excited for them.”
Ohio (27-5) returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 20 years behind its 3-point shooting, making 294 on the season — 200 more than Arizona State.
The Bobcats never got untracked against the Sun Devils, unable to get into much of a flow against Arizona State’ pressure, shooting 37 percent.
Quiera Lampkins led Ohio with 17 points and Kiyanna Black added 12.
“They do a lot of things well,” Ohio coach Bob Boldon said. “They shoot well, guard well, they have a good post presence, they’re obviously well-coached. They’re a good team.”
The Sun Devils earned their first home NCAA Tournament win since 2005 behind a hounding defense, up-tempo pace and a 10-deep bench.
Arizona State got off to a bit of a nervous start against Ohio before settling down. Once the Sun Devils did, their defense gave the Bobcats fits.
Ohio struggled with Arizona State’s full-court pressure, setting up a couple of easy baskets in transition. The Bobcats had just as much trouble with the Sun Devils’ aggressive half-court defense, leading to difficult shots and more turnovers.
Arizona State took advantage at the other end, making 5 of its first 9 shots and going on a 13-0 run to build a 18-8 lead.
Ohio missed its first seven 3-pointers and had 12 turnovers by halftime, leading to 12 points for Arizona State. The Bobcats made a run to cut the lead to eight, but the Sun Devils pushed back and were up 41-25 at halftime.
Ohio shot 9 of 24 from the floor in the first half.
“They took us out of everything we wanted to do,” Ohio guard Kat Yell said.
Led by Hempen, Arizona State hit 12 of 20 shots, including 5 of 9 from 3-point range. Hempen had 14 points by halftime, hitting 3 of 5 from 3-point range.
Ohio had a quick 7-0 run in the second half to pull within 46-34, but got no closer.
Hempen hit a 3-pointer from well beyond NBA range and the Sun Devils kept up their relentless pressure, cruising into the NCAA Tournament’s second round for the second straight year.
Ohio: The Bobcats are 0-3 in the NCAA Tournament. … Black, Ohio’s leading scorer, was 3 for 9 from the floor.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils have won at least one NCAA Tournament game in eight of their past nine appearances. … Arizona State had 13 steals.
Ohio’s season is over.
Arizona State moves on to face Arkansas-Little Rock in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.
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