Columbia, SC - Upset about being placed as a 8-seed and made to fly across the country for the NCAA Tournament, the Arizona State Sun Devils played angry over the first two rounds.
That anger led to a 73-61 demolition of Michigan State in Friday’s first round that wasn’t nearly as competitive as the final score suggests, and that anger led to a repeat performance against the 1-seed South Carolina Gamecocks.
Arizona State bothered All-American and two-time SEC Player of the Year A’ja Wilson from the opening minute to the last and Sophie Brunner led the Sun Devils with 20 points, but it wasn’t enough as the Gamecocks eliminated ASU, 71-68.
The Sun Devils had 2.1 seconds and possession to tie the game, but Brunner’s three-pointer fell wide - ending Arizona State’s season.
Trailing 67-57 midway through the fourth quarter following a Kaela Davis layup, the Sun Devils were shot back to life thanks to freshman Reili Richardson. The point guard converted a layup and three-pointer to quickly zap into the Gamecock lead, and Kelsey Moos’ jumper pulled Arizona State within 67-65.
After a successful stop on the defensive end, the Sun Devils pulled ahead as Sabrina Haines drained a three-pointer. Wilson answered back on South Carolina’s next possession, collecting her own rebound and converting a second-chance opportunity to retake the lead for the final time.
With the loss, the Sun Devil careers of four seniors come to an end. Brunner, Kelsey Moss and Quinn Dornstauder end their collegiate careers as four-year starters at ASU with four consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament, while Sara Hattis wrapped up a transfer season.
The Sun Devils scored the first points of the game on Sophie Brunner’s first basket of the evening, but South Carolina and WIlson asserted themselves in the paint from there on, building an early 14-6 advantage.
Dornstauder supplied a quick five-point burst for Arizona State with a pair of buckets down low, converting an and-one opportunity on the latter score to pull ASU back within three points. From there, the Sun Devils played the Gamecocks even, trailing 19-15 at the conclusion of the opening period.
Brunner heated up in the second quarter, pouring on ten points over the course of the period and Reili Richardson’s score pushed the Sun Devils back in front for the first time since the opening basket at 31-29. Brunner connected on the half’s final possession and Arizona State took a 39-33 lead to the locker room.
The Sun Devils enjoyed a quick start to the third quarter as Brunner came right out of the gate for a quick score. Her bucket was followed by a Sabrina Haines three-pointer, and Arizona State momentarily took a double-digit lead at 44-33.
That advantage quickly dissipated, as South Carolina’s Wilson converted a lay-up and the Gamecocks moved back within three thanks to Bianca Cuevas-Moore’s three-pointer. ASU went cold from the field to close the quarter, but maintained a 53-51 lead heading into the climatic period.