LOS ANGELES — Tupac’s hit single “California Love” has not seemed to hit the hearts of Arizona State women’s basketball in the Golden State.
Through their first three games in California, the Sun Devils are 1-2. Overall, they have lost three of their last four. All three of those losses have come from top-15 opponents (No. 7 Washington, No. 10 Stanford and No. 13 UCLA)
“You love the strength of our conference. You love that every game is a big game,” said head coach Charli Turner-Thorne. “Right now we still expect to win, but when you’re not at full-strength, it’s hard.”
The Sun Devils (14-6, 5-4) have been without senior Kelsey Moos for seven games and freshman Jamie Ruden for eight.
“We’ve had injuries. We’ve had people out,” Turner Thorne said. “The thing I’m really excited most about this team overall is I think we have a chance to play our best basketball down the stretch and peak in March.”
And down the stretch in this game specifically the Sun Devils played well, or at least better basketball than the first half.
After trailing 36-24 through 20 minutes, Arizona State outscored UCLA 22-19 in the third quarter and tied the Bruins 14-14 in the final quarter.
The Sun Devils even came within five points (65-60) with 1:14 left in the game, before missing their last three shots of the game.
“I am pleased with the second half in the sense that we can handle getting beat. But you know our team and our program. We can’t handle getting outworked. Our young kids are learning how to play hard every possession,” said Turner-Thorne snapping her fingers.
The biggest breakdown defensively for Arizona State was allowing for junior Jordin Canada to explode for 26 points.
“We left her so confident and so comfortable tonight and that’s on both the guards the post and the whole team,” said senior Sophie Brunner. “We didn’t do a good job helping out with her, keeping her in front of us. All of those little things, you can’t let a good point guard like that do.”
Turner-Thorne completely agreed with Brunner and added on her team’s youth.
“Canada’s a great player and I think she looked at these freshman like they’re going to try to guard me and she went at them and she got the best of them this time,” Turner Thorne said. “So credit to her, great player, and she did what she needed to do to lead her team just in every way.”
Arizona State guards Freshman Reili Richardson and Sophomore Sabrina Haines had two points each. And freshman Robbi Ryan had a second-best on the team 13.
The Sun Devils’ young starting guards combined for 17, while UCLA’s Canada not only had 26, but added six assists and four rebounds.
A chance for redemption sits just across the City of Angels at USC’s Galen Center on Sunday at 4 p.m., where the Sun Devils will face the struggling Trojans (11-9, 2-7).