ASU basketball trailed 58-40 with 8:09 remaining in the fourth quarter. Then, Arizona State kicked into a new gear ending the game on 20-0 run to win 60-58.
“Woo!” was how head coach Charli Turner Thorne began her postgame press conference after Arizona State completed their biggest comeback of the season.
When these two teams met in Salt Lake City in January, the Utes led by six with under two minutes to go.
Forward Kianna Ibis jumpstarted the comeback with back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game followed by guard Reili Richardson banking in a buzzer-beater to secure the win at Utah.
Fast forward six weeks and the Sun Devils were in a similar, but worse, position as they trailed Utah for the entire the game.
Utes forward Andrea Torres scored a 3-pointer with 8:09 remaining in the game to give the Utes a commanding 58-40 lead.
The game seemed to be over considering Arizona State struggled for three quarters shooting the ball.
Then, as Turner Thorne put it, the team “kicked into another gear” as they finished the game on a 20-0 run over the final 7:44 to win 60-58.
“What an unbelievable fourth quarter by this team. They finally shifted gears and locked in,” Turner Thorne said. “We said, ‘it’s not how you start but how you finish.’ Great team basketball on both ends of the floor. We had different players make plays down the stretch and it was really fun.”
Turner Thorne was asked if she felt ASU was in their heads after coming back to win late in Salt Lake City.
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“Lynne (Roberts) is a great coach. They have a unique roster where it’s seniors and freshmen,” Turner Thorne said. “I think they do have good toughness, but when you’re on the skid they’re on (losers of six in a row) right now, for me as a coach I feel we can get them because you’re never as confident when you’re not winning.”
Arizona State played stifling defense on a Utes team that appeared to be playing the clock as they shot just 1-of-9 in the fourth quarter including turning the ball over eight times.
After Ibis cut the deficit to three points with 1:49 remaining, the Sun Devils missed two 3-pointers and were forced to foul Utah when they were only on one team foul.
On the ensuing inbound, Megan Huff committed an over-the-back violation to give ASU the ball with 23 seconds remaining.
Then Robbi Ryan stepped up.
After scoring just one point in the first half, Ryan dropped 10 in the second half including the game-tying 3-pointer with 13 seconds remaining to tie the game at 58.
“I had a few shots that rimmed in and out. I just kind of stayed with it,” Ryan said. “I got my defense going a little bit and I just felt my teammates more. When you feel your teammates, you play with more energy and that just contributes to everything.”
Utah called timeout and with 1.9 seconds remaining, Richardson drew a charge on Utes guard Dru Gylten to give ASU possession.
Out of an ASU timeout, Ekmark was fouled on a deep 3-point attempt with 0.9 seconds remaining as Utah completely unraveled in the fourth quarter.
Ekmark made two of three free throws and with 0.6 seconds remaining, the Utes inbound was intercepted and ASU completed the comeback.
“It’s awesome. It just shows how good we can be when we decide going into the fourth quarter that it’s not over,” Ekmark said. “We all believed when Charli (Turner Thorne) told us we can do it.”
Ekmark would finish with a team-high 15 points with Ryan scoring 11 and Ibis scoring 10 points to go with nine rebounds.
ASU shot 16-for-31 in the second half, including 8-of-13 in the fourth quarter, to pull out the win.
“I told them (at halftime) if we have a 40 or 50-point second half, we can do it,” Turner Thorne said. “They agreed and knew that, but we had to get stops so I think that’s what shifted from the third to the fourth quarter.”
The Sun Devils scored 40 points in the second half after tying a season-low with 20 first-half points.
When ASU lost to Stanford on Jan. 11, a frustrated Ekmark said it was their time to take these games. Now, they’ve won two tight games against two quality opponents in Oregon State and Utah and she feels the team is making strides in closing games.
“Today proved that (we are making strides), but at the same time, we won’t have to do that as much if we play four quarters of Sun Devil basketball, but it really does show how good we can be,” Ekmark said. “If we learn from this, and play like that every quarter, then we’re going to be really tough to beat.”
Next up for the Sun Devils is a second trip through the Pac-12 gauntlet as they’ll head to the Bay Area to face Cal and Stanford.
More importantly, the victory keeps the Sun Devils in the top-four of the Pac-12 standings as they look to secure a first round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament.
This win also keeps ASU in the conversation to finish as a top-16 seed so they can host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament in Tempe.
It was complete chaos in women’s basketball this week as 14 of the AP top-25 lost this week.
While Turner Thorne would like to play more consistently over four quarters, at this time of the year, she’ll take a win any way possible.
“I guess it was good entertainment for the fans,” Turner Thorne said. “But any win at this time of the year is a great win so just really proud of our team for sticking with things.”
All quotes in this article were obtained firsthand by Devils in Detail unless otherwise noted.