Sun Devil WBB nearly posts historic comeback
TEMPE, Ariz. – The Sun Devil women's basketball team nearly came up with what would have been the second-largest comeback in NCAA Division I history. Trailing by 29 points with two minutes remaining in the second quarter, the Sun Devils fought back to get within six points with just over two minutes remaining in regulation before ultimately falling to Utah, 72-63 on Sunday.
It was nearly déjà vu all over again for the Sun Devils (9-6, 1-1 Pac-12), who in February of 2019 scored the last 20 points of the game to overcome an 18-point deficit over the same Utah Utes to post their biggest comeback in school history (tied for 10th largest deficit in NCAA annals).
"I was proud that we fought back and I do believe this team could beat anybody in the conference, and play with anybody, but you got to play," ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne said following the game. "Clearly the first half we were a step slow, and then we just really didn't have the teamwork and connectedness that we've been working on and we had Friday night [in upset of No. 22 Colorado]."
Jade Loville, who was held out for precautionary reasons on Friday, played for the first time since December 30 and scored 20 points. Ayzhiana Basallo scored nine of her 11 points in the fourth quarter by knocking down a trio of triples during ASU's rally. Also helping ASU's comeback effort were Maggie Besselink (eight points/4-5 FGs, five rebounds) and Jaddan Simmons (seven points, 4-4 FTs, three steals).
Turner Thorne said she referenced the improbable comeback ASU made in 2019, but made clear it would have to start on the defensive end. The Utes (10-5, 1-2) hit seven 3-pointers in the first half, equaling the most ASU had allowed in an entire game this season.
"All we had to do was just start playing defense, so we talked about that going into the third quarter and I thought that we did a great job," Turner Thorne said.
After getting within 24 points at the half, the Sun Devils methodically chipped away at the deficit throughout the second half. Loville (seven points) and Besselink (four points) combined for 11 of ASU's 20 points in the third quarter. The Sun Devils hit all nine of their free throw attempts, did not allow Utah to make a 3-pointer and went into the fourth quarter down by 13 points.
ASU continued its dominance on the defensive end in the fourth quarter, allowing the Utes to score only three points over the first six minutes of the final frame. Unfortunately, ASU scored only four points during that same stretch leaving it 12 points down entering the game's final four minutes.
The Sun Devils refused to go down without a fight as Basallo hit a pair of 3-pointers during an 8-2 run, the second of her long balls capping a 41-18 run and cutting Utah's lead to six points, 60-54 with 2:12 remaining.
After Utah extended its lead to nine, Basallo's third make from downtown once again got ASU within six within with 57 seconds remaining.
That is as close as ASU would get as the Utes were nearly perfect from the line (7-8 FTs) in the final minute to seal the win.
Although Turner Thorne was not pleased the Sun Devils got themselves in such a hole – Utah led 21-4 after one quarter and when the Sun Devils reached double digits they were down 31-10 – she was encouraged by their response and the way they battled back.
"I was really curious how we were going to respond in the second half and I liked out response a lot. That's the team that I know and love," Turner Thorne said. "Down almost thirty in the first half, early, [and] we got our defense going… I think to get within two possessions and give ourselves a chance to win is good. We just have to be tougher."
Up next for the Sun Devils is a trip to the Bay Area to face No. 2 Stanford on Friday at 6 p.m. PST/7 p.m. MST (Pac-12 Network, Arizona/KDUS AM 1060) and Cal on Sunday at 12 p.m. PST/1 p.m. MST (Pac-12 Arizona, Bay Area/KDUS AM 1060).