(Photo: Brooke Faber/WCSN)
It was a lasting image.
Senior point guard Elisha Davis made her way around Wells Fargo Arena with the ASU pitchfork hand signs held high, saluting those who came out to support the Sun Devils.
She received a standing ovation. After all, she’s one of the most popular players on the roster and the heart and soul that’s energized this ASU team all season long.
Davis shook hands, hugged fans, and exited the court as she always does, but something was different this time.
As she walked into the tunnel and back into the locker room, it would be her last time in the uniform of a Sun Devil.
(Photo: Brooke Faber/WCSN)
“I kind of wanted to live in that moment because after that, I won’t get that,” Davis said of her standing ovation. “That moment, when everybody is just there to watch us and support us, I won’t get that back, especially from Sun Devil Nation. I guess you could say I kind of wanted to suck in — suck it all in. Like a Capri Sun, just suck it all the way up until there’s no more left. So that’s kind of what that was about. But I enjoyed them for clapping and cheering us on. It was really a beautiful thing, and for them to have that support, even after a loss like that.”
In what would prove to be their final game of the season, the Arizona State Sun Devils (26-7) were unable to overcome Diamond DeShields and Tennessee (21-13), losing to the Volunteers 75-64 in Tempe.
Davis did absolutely everything that she could. The senior scored a career-high 18 points to go along with six assists and three rebounds.
She was 7-for-10 from the floor and 3-for-5 from three-point range, including a buzzer-beater at the end of the third quarter that gave the Sun Devils life in the midst of a big Tennessee run.
She was far and away the best player on the court for ASU, but despite playing a stellar game, the image everyone will remember will be Davis walking off the court for the final time.
One of the main reasons Tennessee was able to upset ASU was their ability to exploit a stark size advantage over the Sun Devils.
In the opening quarter, center Mercedes Russell was an absolute force, scoring 10 points on 4-for-4 shooting. She would only score two more points, but Bashaara Graves picked up the slack with eight points of her own.
“I think it was a different defensive look than what we’ve seen,” Russell said. “In the past everybody has been packing it in and kind of double and triple teaming us in the post, and tonight, they just played us straight up one-on-one.”
Despite Russell’s phenomenal first quarter, the Sun Devils were able to weather the storm and go into the halftime break tied at 33 points a piece. It seemed that a tightly contested second half was imminent, but unfortunately for ASU, Tennessee’s athleticism prevailed.
After having giving up a bunch of points on the inside, ASU was forced to collapse on the paint, giving DeShields the lift she needed to get herself going.
Although she only scored six points in the first half, DeShields was instrumental in helping Tennessee pull away from ASU, scoring 18 second half points.
Her biggest contribution came in the fourth quarter when she took over the game and scored 14 of her game-high 24 points.
“I thought that we needed to go to Diamond [DeShields],” said Tennessee head coach Holly Warlick. “I had a lot of confidence in running certain things to her that she would make plays, and she did.”
With the loss comes the end of the season for the 2015-16 ASU women’s basketball team. They’ll see five seniors leave in Davis, Katie Hempen, Peace Amukamara, Arnecia Hawkins, and Eliza Normen.
At the post-game press conference, a very emotional Charli Turner Thorne addressed ASU’s senior class and the season as a whole.
“I love this team,” Turner Thorne said. “They have been a blast to coach. They have been amazing. Definitely have not underachieved. They have had an incredible year and have an amazing spirit, and I’ve just been so proud of everything they have accomplished. Just really, really going to miss the senior class, too.”
Player of the Game: Diamond DeShields
DeShields was the main reason Tennessee was able to pull away in the second half. She scored only six points in the first half, allowing ASU to stay tied heading into the break, but erupted for 18 in the second half to help stretch the lead out and ultimately upset the Sun Devils.
On top of her game-high 24 points, DeShields racked up five rebounds and three steals, but the impressiveness of her play in the fourth quarter cannot be underscored. She was clearly the best player on the court tonight, and because of it the Volunteers are moving on to the Sweet Sixteen.
Stat of the Night: 36-30
This was the rebound count for the game, with Tennessee out-rebounding ASU by six. Going into the game, Turner Thorne was adamant about the fact that they would have to rebound to win, as it was an issue against New Mexico State. After being out-rebounded and following the game, she stood by her point.
“We knew the game was about the boards,” Turner Thorne said. “They ended up plus six. If we would have been plus six, I think we would have won. We kind of softened our pressure a little bit to keep them in front of us. Though we didn’t turn it over quite as much; the rebounding was huge.”
Tennessee will head to the Sweet Sixteen to take on Ohio State. As for the Sun Devils, they’ll head into the offseason to get ready for a 2016-17 season that will be led by Sophie Brunner and Quinn Dornstauder.