What rust? After long layoff, ASU women upset No. 22 Colorado

The Arizona State women’s basketball team that took the floor last night at Desert Financial Arena was not what the visiting Colorado Buffaloes had been expecting.

It had been three weeks since the Sun Devils played a game, thanks to the cancellation of their previous six games, dating back to Dec. 31 when the meeting with UCLA was postponed due to COVID protocols within the Bruins’ program.

That scheduled game with the Bruins would have opened the slate of Pac-12 games.  Instead, the Devils found themselves going up against Colorado without a single conference game under their belts.  They were the only team in the conference that hadn’t started that part of their schedule.

The Buffs had hoped there would be enough rust on the Devils’ game to be able to break their two-game losing streak.  The weeks of inactivity showed, but ASU was able to overcome the disadvantage, take Colorado into overtime, and eventually pull out a 57-52 victory to run its overall record to 9-5.

The win was the first this season against a ranked opponent.

It was a low-scoring game that relied on defense to save the day.  The Devils took 52 shots and made just 19 (36 percent), including a 6-for-20 performance (30 percent) from behind the arc.  And their success at the free throw line wasn’t any better, just barely making more than they missed, 13-for-24.

Part of that lack of offensive success could be attributed to the loss of the team’s leading scorer, Jade Loville, who wasn’t available for the game.  The senior transfer from Boise State is averaging 15.5 points a game.

And the mistakes that showed their long stretch of inactivity were plentiful.  They committed 21 teams fouls and added 29 turnovers to the sloppiness.  Taya Hanson, the game’s high scorer with 17 points, fouled out with 12 seconds left in the game, and the rest of the personal fouls were spread around among eight of her teammates.

The Devils set the tone early against the Buffs, taking a 6-0 lead to start the game and holding that lead for almost the entire game.  Colorado took the lead away briefly as the first half ended with a 23-22 Colorado lead.  But ASU took the lead back after halftime and outscored the Buffs by three points in the third quarter.

Aggressive full-court, trapping defensive pressure by Colorado in the final minute of regulation enabled the Buffs to create the turnovers they needed to tie the game at 46-46 on a basket with 11 seconds left and force overtime.

That erratic, sloppy play extended into the overtime period.  There were a combined 17 points scored in those five minutes, and every point was made at the free throw line amid a continuous cascade of fouls.

The margin of victory wasn’t as close as the final score indicates.  Colorado hit a three-point shot at the buzzer to cut the lead to five points.

This was the second overtime game this season for ASU.  The Devils lost the first one, 59-66, to Minnesota back on Nov. 12.  That loss was the first of four losses during a five-game stretch.  Now, the Sun Devils are riding a four-game winning streak.

They will try to extend the streak tomorrow afternoon when they host Utah.  The Utes, also with nine wins and sitting in 11th place in the Pac-12, are coming off a 76-64 loss to the Arizona Wildcats.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)