Tempe, Ariz. – Sunday’s game at Desert Financial Arena was between two teams on opposite ends of a spectrum.
No. 19 Arizona State came in off of a triple-overtime home victory over USC on Friday, while No. 8 UCLA needed a bounce-back win after losing to No. 16 Arizona in Tucson.
It has been said that the most desperate team wins, and the Bruins were that team. They left Tempe victorious, 70-61.
Sun Devil head coach Charli Turner Thorne, who garnered her 500th career win two days earlier, didn’t think her team gave the effort that she expected from them. She credited UCLA’s rout at the hands of the Wildcats for giving them a more competitive edge.
“Obviously they’ve been dominating and doing great, and then they get blown out,” Turner Thorne said. “Of course they were going to respond.”
Senior Jamie Ruden, who finished with 15 points, agreed.
“It’s always the tougher team that wins, and I think we could’ve been a little bit tougher, been a little bit more poised when they were playing physical,” Ruden said.
Both teams put on quite the show in the first half, diving and fighting for loose balls. The hosts went into the locker room with a 34-32 lead.
The Bruins opened the third quarter with a 13-6 run, forcing Turner Thorne to call a timeout at the 4:19 mark. Japreece Dean, who scored 12 points in the first half for the visitors, continued her assault to finish with 18, while Charisma Osborne scored 15 and Michaela Onyenwere, 14.
Dean did most of her scoring off of down screens and handoffs, as did Arizona State’s Robbi Ryan, who finished with 15 points.
Ryan was mostly neutralized after the halftime break. UCLA head coach Cori Close could be heard calling out Sun Devil plays before they could run them, and the shots Ryan got in the first two quarters were no longer open.
Turner Thorne said that her team’s offense was also halted in part due to a lack of understanding by her players.
“That’s where some of our kids not knowing their playbook really hurts,” she said. “We’ve been having that all year long, but it’s been really more challenging when you play against pressure.”
Defensively, the team didn’t fare much better.
The 70 points the Bruins scored in the game were 14 points more than Arizona State allows on average.
Osborne hit two three-pointers in the third quarter that Turner Thorne said should have never been open.
“We just didn’t guard her, you know. We didn’t do a good job,” she said. “I mean, we were just sitting there on the bench going, ‘What are we doing?’”
The Sun Devils didn’t get it done with their defense and effort, which are two key elements of their style of play under Turner Thorne. If they want to go far in the conference tournament, they need to get back to those elements on a more consistent basis.
Arizona hits the road next weekend to take on the Oregon schools, while UCLA travels to the Bay to face Stanford and Cal.