(Photo: Brooke Faber/WCSN)
Arizona State advanced to the Sweet 16 Monday night after defeating Arkansas Little- Rock 57 to 54 in a game that the Sun Devils lead for just 1:13.
“Make them pay!”
A phrase that was blurted by an anonymous fan rang throughout the bellows of a hushed Wells Fargo Arena. The home team looking broken, but not beaten after opening the contest with a 17 point first half that saw them hit just six of their first 28 shots. And make them pay they did.
Little Rock failed to capitalize on the miserable first half put forth by ASU. Entering the locker room trailing by nine, Arizona State looked to have been bit by the Cinderella snake early on.
But the Sun Devils sprung to life in the second. Outscoring the Trojans 40-28 in the last 20 minutes, shooting 57% on their way to a nail-biting comeback.
“I knew we were going to click and finish out this game strong,” senior guard Promise Amukamara said. “They’re a tough team, but I’ve got to commend our team, I feel like we’re tougher.”
Down by six with 2:11 left on the clock, Elisha Davis launched a 25-foot miracle with the shot clock winding down.
Davis’ and ASU’s prayers were answered when the deep three banked off the glass and into the hoop. Making it a three-point game, and igniting a Tempe crowd that had been sitting on its hands for most of the night.
“Believe,” Davis said regarding the clutch three. “That’s all that was running through my head, believe.”
A few defensive stops, timely offensive rebounds and a couple of layups courtesy of Sophie Brunner and Kelsey Moos, all equated into a three-point victory for the Sun Devils, and a ticket to Greensboro, North Carolina. Where they’ll face Florida State in a Sweet 16 clash between two top-10 teams.
Stat of the Night: Free Throws
An athletic and slashing team like Arkansas Little Rock generally makes their money by drawing fouls and converting at the charity stripe. But a disciplined ASU squad committed just nine fouls over the course of the entire game. Giving the Trojans just four chances from the line.
The Sun Devils on the other hand were able to draw plenty of hacks, with Sophie Brunner backing down UALR’s smaller frontcourt players. The Sun Devils went 13-15 from the stripe, and were able to seal the deal late when Katie Hempen knocked down two clutch free throws with a one point lead and 11 seconds left in regulation.
Player of the Game: Promise Amukamara
You could say that the senior from Glendale was playing for her life tonight, and her stat line surely supported it. Amukamara was pretty much ASU’s only offensive threat in the first half, and continued to play well in transition when the team made their second half surge. Amukamara also did it on the defensive end, holding UALR star senior Taylor Gault to just 10 points, just two of which came in the second half, on 5-13 shooting.
Biggest Concern: Slow Start
It’s been duly noted that Arizona State isn’t a team that comes out and dominates early. But a first half showing like today might put the Sun Devils too far out of reach against a deep and talented Florida State team.
It’s on to the Sweet 16 for Charli Turner-Thorne’s group as they pack their bags for the East Coast. She doesn’t like to look ahead, but when facing a team like the Seminoles, Coach wants to be prepared.
“I haven’t looked at them yet,” Turner-Thorne said. “But I’m going to get right on that as soon as we get done with this.”