About 20 minutes after Arizona State’s 69-63 win over then-No. 19 Florida on Dec. 4, Sun Devil head coach Charli Turner Thorne mentioned “I can’t even express it” how relieved she felt to defeat a ranked opponent prior to her team’s two game road trip.
The Sun Devils were set to play then-No. 15 Kentucky (7-3) and Middle Tennessee (2-5) in what Thorne marked as “the toughest road trip we have all year, including the Pac-12.”
In spite of Throne’s anticipation, No. 23 Arizona State (7-2) ended its two-game trek with a clean sweep. The Sun Devils endured a nail-bitter 73-71 overtime win over Kentucky and ran over Middle Tennessee 69-48.
Against Kentucky, senior forward Sophie Brunner was the hero as she buried a turnaround jumper with 5.5 seconds left in overtime to give the Sun Devils a 73-71 win.
Following the victory that sprung the Maroon and Gold back into the AP top 25, the team traveled about four hours south of Lexington, KY to Murfreesboro, TN.
“Middle Tennessee, that’s a high-end mid-major, and it’s a really tough place to play,” said Thorne.
The 21st year Arizona State coach even questioned before the season; “Do we really want to do a home and home (two games in two seasons) with them?”
Once again, despite Thorne’s worries, the Sun Devils answered in tremendous fashion.
The 69-48 win over Middle Tennessee was characterized by efficient shooting, dominance near the rim, and solid bench play for the Sun Devils.
After shooting just 40 and 42 percent overall in wins against the SEC’s Kentucky and Florida, Arizona State shot 56 percent from the field compared to the Blue Raiders’ 40. The Sun Devils were also hot from the free throw line going 15-for-19 for 79 percent.
In the paint, Turner Thorne’s team doubled up Middle Tennessee in rebounds 32-16 and created 11 second-chance points from its 11 offensive rebounds.
The most significant factor in the Sun Devils’ win was bench points. The six players coming off the bench for ASU totaled 40 points, while Middle Tennessee had just eight.
Freshman guard Robbi Ryan led the team in points with 13 and added four assists off the bench. Also off the bench, was sophomore forward Kianna Ibis who scored the second-most points with nine and had five rebounds.
After the dominant win, the Sun Devils return to Wells Fargo Arena to play Oral Roberts on December 17 and Holy Cross on the 21st before beginning Pac-12 play against No. 10 Stanford and California over New Year’s weekend.