(Photo: Steve Rodriguez/ASU Athletics)
Nail-biting victories are starting to become a recurring theme for the No. 14 Arizona State Sun Devils. This past weekend, they took their blue-collar style on the road, first beating the Utah Utes 65-62 in Salt Lake City, and then coming out victorious against the Colorado Buffaloes in Boulder 68-66.
Against the Utes, ASU led most of the way, but Utah utilized a 13-4 run late in the second half to take a 62-61 lead with 14 seconds remaining. On the ensuing play, the Sun Devils fed freshman forward Sophie Brunner in the paint and she was fouled, hitting both free throws to take the lead with nine seconds left. Brunner finished the night with eight points and 4 rebounds.
Following Brunner’s free throws, Utah’s sophomore guard Danielle Rodriguez drove down the right sideline, and ASU junior guard Promise Amukamara pressured Rodriguez into forcing a turnover.
ASU sophomore guard Katie Hempen was then fouled and hit both of her free throws. The Utes attempted to get a three-point shot off, but failed to even throw a shot up when Amukamara once again stepped up defensively, intercepting a pass to seal the game.
The Utes were led by senior forward Michelle Plouffe’s 22 point, seven rebound effort.
With the win over Utah, the Sun Devils have yet to drop back-to-back games this season.
In Boulder, Colo., Arizona State faced a similar challenge against the Buffaloes.
After a quick start that had the Sun Devils up 24-14 with just over seven minutes left, the Buffaloes fought there way back within single-digits by halftime. The second half was much more even as there were 21 lead changes throughout the entire game.
Colorado led ASU 66-65 with two minutes left in the game, but once again, ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne’s team found a way to win.
Following a missed shot by Brunner, fellow freshman forward Kelsey Moos grabbed the offensive board and got fouled. She hit the first free throw to tie the game at 66, but she failed to convert the second. Moos finished the night with five points and 11 rebounds.
Once again, defense saved the Sun Devils, and once again, the defensive hero was Amukamara. While guarding senior guard Brittany Wilson, Amukamara forced yet another turnover, coming up with the steal and sparking a fast break. She dished it off to senior guard Adrianne Thomas who was fouled.
Thomas hit both free throws and then ASU’s full-court pressure forced another Colorado turnover, ending the game.
Senior guard Deja Mann led ASU with 17 points on 7-10 shooting and three rebounds. She also led the Sun Devils in minutes played with 32, seven more than the next-closest player.
The Buffaloes’ junior guard Jen Reese paced her team with 22 points and eight rebounds, but she was held with to only one basket in the last seven minutes of the game.
ASU is more than accustomed to games coming down to the wire, and, better yet, they seem to excel under pressure. They are now 7-0 in games decided by five or less and/or in overtime.
The Sun Devils will return to Wells Fargo Arena this Friday, Jan. 31, to square off against the Oregon State Beavers.
You can reach Zac Pacleb on Twitter @ZacPacleb or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org