ASU Basketball: Big play from bench helps advance team to Sweet 16

ASU basketball upsets Miami thanks to a huge performance out of their bench, and will advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2015.

After losing in the second round of the NCAA Tournament the past three seasons, No. 5 Arizona State outlasted No. 4 Miami in a tremendous game that went down to the final seconds.

A key for Arizona State was they great play they got out of their second unit. Throughout the season ASU has been one of the deepest teams in the nation and it payed off tonight.

“I said I think our bench is going to be the difference in the game going into this game,” Arizona State head coach Charli Turner Thorne said, “and I think they were.”

ASU’s bench outscored Miami’s 29-7. Those players include Jamie Ruden, Iris Mbulito, Sophia Elenga, Taya Hanson, and Kiara Russell.

Coming into the game, Turner Thorne hinted at the idea of playing Jamie Ruden more than usual in attempt to use her shooting ability to their advantage and space out the floor.

Ruden came in and did just that. She scored 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting including 2-for-4 from the 3-point line.

In the fourth quarter Miami would look like they would pull away and Ruden stepped up a hit a three pointer from the top of the key to keep ASU in it.

After the game talked about how she took the opportunity off the bench and helped her team advance and stay alive.

“I just tried to take any opportunity my teammates could create for me,” Ruden said, “and they were really encouraging me and hyping me up to keep shooting.”

Coming off the bench alongside Ruden was freshman Iris Mbulito. Playing 15 minutes in the game not all of what Mbulito does for this team shows up in the stat line.

Mbulito came into the game and brought great energy on both sides of the ball. Multiple times during the game, ASU was struggling a little on offense and Mbulito would take the ball on the fast break and make a great pass to an open teammate to get an easy bucket to get them going again.

She also played great defense on the opposing team’s guards and uses her height advantage and long arms to be a constant threat to them.

Whenever she came into the game she would Miami guard Mykea Gray who at the time was leading the team in scoring for the game, but struggled with the length and athleticism of Mbulito.

Another huge performance off the bench for ASU was forward Sophia Elenga. Elenga faced the challenge of having to try to defend Miami’s excellent bigs.

Elenga gave it everything she had and played extremely physical with them. She picked up four fouls, but never backed down.

In the final minutes of the game with the score tied, Elenga made a steal on defense and took it the length of the court to give ASU not only the lead, but also a huge boost of momentum.

Turner Thorne has preached all year about how her team is one of the deepest teams and it is such an advantage for them to make a deep run like they are now.

“You know, it’s huge for us,” Turner Thorne said, “and it’s going to serve us well obviously in Portland.”

All quotes in this article were obtained firsthand by Devils in Detail unless otherwise noted.