(Photo Credit: Steve Rodriguez/Sun Devil Athletics)
Winning in the last moments of a game is becoming a recurring theme for the No. 15 Arizona State Sun Devils (18-3, 7-2). After stealing a 64-62 victory over the Oregon State Beavers (12-9, 4-5), thrilling wins are becoming more of the norm for ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne and her team.
The first half was all OSU. The Beavers were on fire from beyond the three-point arc, hitting seven from behind the stripe in the half on just nine attempts. They went on a 13-0 run to stretch the lead to as many as 13 points before ASU closed the half on an 11-2 run to cut the lead to single-digits.
“We weren’t defending anybody for the first 12 minutes of that game,” Turner Thorne said.
ASU, on the other hand, struggled offensively. The Sun Devils shot just 30.6 percent for the half, and finished the night shooting just about the same rate, their worst of the season.
OSU’s sophomore 6-foot-6 center Ruth Hamblin was a big obstacle to get around for the Sun Devils all night. She racked up eight rebounds and two blocks while changing shots consistently around the rim. ASU freshman forward Sophie Brunner was matched up against Hamblin for the majority of the night but still managed 10 points and seven rebounds.
“(Hamblin) is obviously a lot taller than me, like six inches taller than me,” Brunner said. “But it was like, hit her first so she doesn’t hit me first so I had a clear space, and jump with her.”
The Sun Devils continued to struggle from the field, but a layup from redshirt sophomore Katie Hempen tied the game at 50 with 10:06 left in the game.
The Beavers responded with a 10-3 run, and held ASU with one made field goal over a four-minute span.
ASU stormed back however, thanks in part to a few ill-timed Beavers turnovers, and tied the game once again with a layup via senior guard Adrianne Thomas with 34 seconds remaining.
“(Thomas) just makes plays,” Turner Thorne said. “Her awareness defensively is fantastic.”
ASU sophomore guard Promise Amukamara once again came up clutch on the defensive end for the Sun Devils, forcing yet another Beaver turnover and drawing a foul with 14 seconds left. She split the pair from the line, giving her team their first lead, 63-62, since five minutes into the first half. Oregon State finished the game with 23 turnovers.
“All I was thinking was getting a stop and keeping my player in front of me,” Amukamara said. “And I happened to get the steal.”
The Sun Devils forced a long three-point attempt at the buzzer from sophomore guard Jamie Weisner that clanked off the iron and sealed the ASU victory. This was ASU’s largest deficit they have come back from to win this season, and they are now 9-0 in games decided by five points or less and/or in overtime this season.
“Honestly, we can’t believe it because we always put ourselves in these situations where it’s not the team beating us, and we’re beating ourselves,” Thomas said. “We don’t try to do it on purpose. It just happens to go that way.”
“I really believe we’re getting everybody’s best effort,” Turner Thorne said. “I think people watch us and think, ‘We can beat them.’”
ASU will be back at Wells Fargo Arena this Sunday, Feb. 2 to take on the Oregon Ducks, a team that leads the NCAA in points per game (95.9). The game will tipoff at 1 p.m.
“It’s fun. It’s exciting,” Turner Thorne said. “It’s a little too exciting.”
You can reach Zac Pacleb on Twitter @ZacPacleb or via email at email@example.com