Sun Devil WBB’s furious rally falls short in Pac-12 Tournament opener
LAS VEGAS – Despite being mired in a day in which it simply could not get its shots to fall, the Sun Devil women's basketball team found a way to get an 18-point deficit down to two late in the fourth quarter before ultimately coming up short in a 59-54 loss to Oregon State in the opening round of the Pac-12 Women's Basketball Tournament.
ASU's top scorers and rebounders in the game Taya Hanson (game-high 18 points/13 in the second half, career-high nine rebounds) and Mael Gilles (14 points/10 in the second half, nine rebounds), combined with Jade Loville (had seven of nine points in the second half) to produce 30 of ASU's 38 second half points in helping the Sun Devils nearly pull off a dramatic comeback.
"Well, just a tough ending for us," ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne said. "We just really struggled to score down the stretch of the season. Just didn't make shots. And you've got to make shots, especially in March.
"I love the way we fought today and put ourselves right back in a position to win. And that was kind of the story at the end of our year. But I really appreciate this team and all that they gave us. And they have a lot of good lessons learned."
The Sun Devils (12-14) shot, who shot 47 percent or higher six times during the regular season, were only successful on a season-low 26.9 percent of their attempts.
"It was open shots not going and us just kind of rushing," Turner Thorne said of ASU's shooting struggles. "We definitely got good looks and missed. Everybody saw that. But we also kind of forced things early, got blocked a little bit. Kind of drove into some closed spaces, and we needed to be a little bit more patient."
For all the troubles ASU had scoring, it was still within four points of the Beavers (14-12) midway through the second quarter. And although Oregon State scored six of the final eight points of the half, ASU's effort on the defensive end kept its deficit in single digits, 24-16 at the half.
Hanson opened the second half with a 3-pointer to get ASU within five, 24-19. Unfortunately, her triple was not able to ignite a scoring run for the Sun Devils. The Beavers answered by scoring 16 of the game's next 19 points to take their largest lead of the game, 40-22, with 1:42 remaining in the third quarter.
After a basket by Loville made it a 12-point game early in the fourth quarter, the Beavers slowly built their back up to 17, a seemingly insurmountable deficit for the Devils to come back from with 5:34 remaining. Still, the Devils were willing to give it their best shot.
A 3-pointer by Hanson was followed by a 3-point play by Gilles to slice OSU's advantage to 11. Following two free throws by OSU, the duo of Hanson and Gilles struck again as each player scored from downtown in the space of 16 seconds to suddenly get ASU within seven points with 3:36 still to be played.
The game's most dramatic sequence came after Oregon State pushed its lead back up to 10. A 3-pointer by Loville was followed – after a timeout – by a Jaddan Simmons steal that Gilles cashed in for a layup.
Another ASU defensive stop on OSU's ensuing possession led to another 3-pointer from Hanson – one of the program's all-time best from long range – and with 1:21 left, the Sun Devils had whittled OSU's lead down to two, 52-50.
On the verge of tying the biggest comeback in school history, the Sun Devils lost their shooting touch over the last minute of the game as they combined to miss their last four shots while missing a pair of free throws (4-6).
Although the Beavers shot only 67 percent (12-18) from the foul line, they were able to connect when it mattered most, making 80 percent of their attempts in the final period, including 5-for-6 in the final 1:09.
"They're fighters," Turner Thorne said of her team when asked about it nearly making a very improbable comeback – down 17 with 5:34 remaining. "Really, we didn't have the energy to press all game, but we pressed the fourth quarter and that kind of showed up pretty well. And we also hit some shots.
"But they believed. We've been down and we fought back and won some big games. And so I'm proud of them for that and believing. And we needed to definitely create some offense off our defense and we finally did in the fourth quarter."