Unranked ASU women stun No. 9 UA with OT hoops win

Yesterday’s win in overtime against rival University of Arizona may not have been the most exciting game in the history of Arizona State women’s basketball, but it has to rank up there among the top candidates for that distinction.

The Sun Devils were unranked and facing the No. 9 team in the nation — which had already beaten ASU earlier in the season by an embarrassing 28 points.

But the scoring margin throughout yesterday’s game was never more than a few buckets.

The 66-64 upset win yesterday afternoon at Desert Financial Arena shocked the world of Pac-12 basketball.  The Devils had pretty much been left for dead after a blow-out loss to Stanford, followed by a double-digit loss to Cal, a team that hadn’t won a game all season.

But right from the start of the Arizona game, it was obvious that this game was going to be different.

In both previous games, the Devils shot under 30 percent from the field.  But against Arizona, they were back in the game, nailing 42 percent of their shots in the first half and finished the game shooting 46.7  percent, which included a 60 percent success rate in the overtime period.

But the key might have been their accuracy from behind the arc where they shot a season-high 55.6 percent.

ASU asserted itself right away, combining a more methodical, consistent offensive attack with a lock-down defense.  The Devils (11-9, 6-9) led almost the entire first half before Arizona went on a little run to close out the half with a five-point lead, 25-20.

But ASU went on a 19-point scoring binge in the third quarter, and less than five minutes into the fourth quarter had their biggest lead to that point at 42-49.

The regulation portion of the game ultimately came down to the final 30 seconds  At the 25-second mark, UofA senior guard Aari McDonald used a couple of free throws to cut the ASU lead to 53-54.  Freshman forward Katelyn Levings made one of her two FT attempts to give the Devils a two-point lead before McDonald went to the line once again with five seconds left in regulation and tied it at 55-55 to force OT.

Overtime turned out to be even more dramatic, with lots of lead changes and neither team getting more than two points advantage.  There were 10 scoring ties for the contest.

With 57.9 seconds left in OT, junior guard Taya Hanson buried perhaps the biggest shot of the game, using a three-pointer to give the Devils a 65-62 lead.  After a Wildcat basket that cut the lead to 66-64, ASU freshman guard Jaddan Simmons added a free throw to make it 66-64 with 13 ticks left on the clock.

Arizona (15-4, 13-4) took their time to get the last shot, but Cate Reese‘s 15-footer just before the buzzer sounded missed the mark, and the Sun Devils avoided a second straight season of being swept by Arizona, which has lately turned the tables on their Tempe rival which has now won 29 of the last 37 meetings, and four out of the last six.

Hanson, who played perhaps her best game of the season, dropped in five three-pointers and led the Devils with 19 pts.  Simmons added 15 points to the win.  And Maggie Besselink, the 6’3″ freshman forward from Canada, chipped in a career-high 13 rebounds.

McDonald led the Wildcats with 30 points, so she has now scored in double figures in 85 straight games, the longest active streak in Division I.  Junior guard Bendu Yeaney finished with 14 points.

McDonald, who could play another season thanks to an NCAA exemption to compensate for the COVID virus issues, has announced she will enter the WNBA draft rather than take advantage of the extra year of eligibility.  She considered leaving last year, but decided to return for her senior season.

But her work isn’t done yet.  Arizona will begin Pac-12 Tournament play on Thursday afternoon as the No. 2 seed, and will face off with the winner of Wednesday’s game between No. 10 Utah and No. 7 Washington State.

ASU is seeded No. 9 and will play No. 8 USC on Wednesday.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)