TEMPE, Ariz. — Katie Hempen brought her shooting legs to the first round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. Arizona State never came down from the lift she provided.
Hempen hit the first two shots of the game — both 3-pointers — to stake ASU to an early lead, and the senior guard hit all six 3-pointers she attempted to match a season-high with 20 points as the second-seeded Sun Devils (26-6) rolled to a 74-52 win over New Mexico State (26-5) on Friday at Wells Fargo Arena.
Hempen’s six 3-pointers set a school record for an NCAA Tournament game, breaking the record she set last year in a first-round win over Ohio. Her six made 3-pointers without a miss also tied an NCAA record.
“That’s what she does,” said coach Charlie Turner Thorne, whose team will face Tennessee in the second round on Sunday. “People are always keying on her so we knew that they were going to run at her hard. She was ready. She side stepped, she shot-faked, she did everything she needed to do to make sure she took good clean looks.”
Hempen entered the game as the Sun Devils’ best 3-point shooter at 41.4 percent (58-140), putting her among the nation’s top 25 3-point shooters, but she had been in a recent slump. Hempen had made just 1-of-11 three-pointers combined in ASU’s loss to UCLA in the regular season finale, and the Sun Devils’ loss to Cal in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament.
She never gave it a second thought.
“I tell my teammates every day, ‘short-term memory loss,'” said Hempen, who set the single-season school record for 3-pointers (76) in 2014-15 and broke Kylan Loney’s school record for career 3-pointers earlier this season. “Our coaches do a great job of keeping us present; not thinking about the past.
“I’m always looking for positives. I don’t ever find myself to emotionally be in a slump.”
Overall, ASU shot 52.6 percent form the field against the Aggies, but it was the defense that once again keyed the Sun Devils. ASU held New Mexico State to 33.9 percent shooting (19-56) and forced 21 turnovers — 13 of them coming off steals.
“We haven’t gotten a jump on teams in a while so it just felt good to kind of get back to what we know and what we work toward every day in practice,” senior guard Elisha Davis (13 points) said. “Even though we did force 21 turnovers and had a really good jump initially in the game, we got lax, we got comfortable, we didn’t sustain it so we have to get better in that aspect.”
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