For the Arizona State women’s basketball team, this season will be defined by continued frustration — but also great promise.
These Sun Devils put up 22 wins, earned an invitation to the NCAA Tournament, and then beat Nebraska in the first round of the tournament before losing to Texas Monday night. The Longhorns, ranked No. 8 in the country and a No. 2 seed in the tourney, rolled over the Devils in a 85-65 rout.
This marks the third straight year that ASU was eliminated in the second round of the tournament. It’s also the fourth failed attempt at beating Texas during the 21 years that head coach Charli Turner Thorne has been directing the Pac-12 program.
That’s the frustration that has continued to dog the Sun Devils and the winningest coach in program history. Turner Thorne has taken her teams to the NCAA Tournament 18 of the last 19 years and made it to the Sweet Sixteen twice and the Elite Eight twice.
But, for the last four years, another deep run into the postseason has been elusive.
However, there is a rainbow on the horizon. Turner Thorne will have all 11 players on this year’s roster back again next year. This year’s squad made it as far as it did without a single senior.
Next year, there will be three seniors — Kianna Ibis, Courtney Ekmark, Charnea Johnson-Chapman — and a couple of juniors —Robbi Ryan, Reili Richardson — in the starting line-up, all with at least a full season of experience as starters.
Ryan, a 5’9″ guard from Wyoming, led the way to a 73-62 win over Nebraska in the opening game, and Ibis poured in a game-high 27 points in the losing effort against Texas. Ibis is a 6’1″ forward who started all 35 games this season and led the team in scoring with 13 points a game.
For 20 minutes Monday night, it looked like the Devils has a good chance of moving on to another Sweet Sixteen, down just five points at the half. They closed the deficit to just two points when the third quarter got underway, but couldn’t find a way to stop a 19-3 run by the Horns that put Texas in the driver’s seat the rest of the way.
ASU was predicted in the preseason polls to finish sixth in the Pac-12, and that’s exactly where they finished up after posting a 10-8 conference mark. But, with a full roster of players returning from a team that won 23 games, the Devils should get a little more respect next season.
Respect would be nice, but what they really need is to find a way to get past the second round at the Big Dance.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)