The Arizona State women’s basketball team returned last night from their weekend road trip through Oregon, leaving behind a trail of road kill from Eugene to Corvallis.
Within a span of less than 48 hours the un-ranked Sun Devils knocked off the No. 2 Oregon Ducks and then eliminated the No. 3 Oregon State Beavers from the ranks of the unbeaten.
The ASU win contributed in a big way to a shake-up in the national rankings, since No. 1 Connecticut was also beaten. The Sun Devils, who reached No. 19 in the AP poll earlier in the season before dropping out in mid-November, returned to the list of ranked teams, entering the Top 25 again at No. 18.
After getting beat by rival University of Arizona by five points, and then coming within two points of taking then-No. 8 UCLA (the nation’s only unbeaten team now) into overtime, ASU took out its frustration on the Oregon schools. The Devils (13-4, 3-2) beat the Ducks on Friday night, 63-54, and then took an early lead in Sunday afternoon’s game against the Beavers, a lead they held all the way to a 72-66 finale.
Coming into yesterday’s game, the team was aware they were on the cusp of doing something special. “I didn’t even research it,” said head coach Charli Turner Thorne after the game. “I just told them this has never been done before. You guys, we can make history.”
ASU is a nationally-recognized program that went to the Sweet 16 last year. But in the preseason, this team was picked to finish a lowly fifth in the Pac-12 by both coaches and media. It’s probably safe to say, then, that no one saw this coming.
It was a lock-down, smothering defense that keyed both Oregon wins. The Devils held Oregon to 23 points below their 89-point average and forced the Ducks into 17 turnovers that were converted into 17 points. In the second game, the Beavers were held to just four points through the first 13 minutes of the game and gave up 15 turnovers. ASU’s aggressive in-your-face defense also held the Beavers to 32 percent shooting from the field and an uncharacteristic 2-for-20 performance from behind the arc.
ASU had to play catch-up against Oregon, outscoring the Ducks 30-14 in the fourth quarter to clinch the win. But against Oregon State, the Devils took the lead in the first couple of minutes and didn’t give it up until the final minutes of the game, when OSU tied it up.
The Beavers whittled the lead to three points with 3:23 left to play on a turnaround jumper at the free-throw line by Maddie Washington, and then tied it up at 45-45 on a three-pointer by Destiny Slocum in the left corner.
ASU quickly recovered to a 49-45 lead down the final stretch, and then Reili Richardson held off the Beaver’s attempt to squeeze back into the lead by netting six straight free throws.
Senior guard Robbi Ryan led the Sun Devil scorers in the first game with 17 points, followed closely by Ja’Tavia Tapley‘s 16 points. Tapley, a 6’3″ senior forward from Florida, took scoring honors in the second game with 14 points, combined with a team-high six rebounds.
But, if there was a “Most Dedicated” award, it would probably go to Richardson. The senior guard played 29 minutes of the Oregon game with the flu and 102-degree temperature — but contributed 12 points, four rebounds, and five assists.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)