The No. 22 Arizona State Sun Devils (14-6, 5-3 Pac-12) broke a three-game losing streak in a win over the Colorado Buffaloes (11-8, 2-6) by a score of 73-59 on Sunday.
The Sun Devils, however, didn’t pick up the pace until later on, as weren’t shooting over 40 percent until 2:32 in the first. After ASU’s, first timeout, the team was able to re-evaluate a plan of attack.
“We wanted to look to stay aggressive,” said ASU sophomore guard Robbi Ryan.
It was then where junior forward Courtney Ekmark was able to hit a three on an early offensive possession to get the offense going for the Sun Devils. Arizona State lead the Buffs 20-9 heading into the second quarter.
“We really try to focus on getting second shots,” said ASU junior forward Kianna Ibis. “Especially when they’re playing zone because we know its vulnerable.”
Colorado decided to break out a mixture of a zone defense and man-to-man to try and confuse ASU on the offensive end. Arizona State was able to combat the Buffs defensive efforts by distributing the ball and freeing up space for the extra pass. As an example, Robbi Ryan dished it to freshman forward Jamie Ruden who would lay it up to give ASU a 24-10 lead with 5:55 left in the second.
Near 1:10 left in the second, Colorado began going on a run as the Buffaloes scored four straight baskets, cutting the lead down to six. ASU was still leading 30-24.
When the first half came to a close, Arizona State was leading 33-26. ASU had also managed to work its way on the boards. The Sun Devils’ biggest takeaway from the half was their ability to rebound the ball, as they grabbed 22 total rebounds, 14 being offensive.
“We needed to get back to rebounding offensively and defensively, because it just fuels everything,” s
ASU, however, was still shooting 35 percent from the field. .
“They had that look in their eyes...I knew that they were gonna take it. I knew that they kind of got their toughness back in terms of you know ‘we’re gonna take this game,’” said Head coach Charli Turner Thorne.
Colorado’s use of the zone defense came back stronger in the third as it created problems from the Sun Devils to formulate an offensive game plan. The Buffs’ efforts had caused Arizona State to go scoreless for the last three minutes of the third.
“No team is an easy team,” said Ibis. “Pac-12 is a great conference so we just can’t take any reps of any team that we play against.”
At the end of the third, ASU was leading 49-43, but Colorado still had an opportunity to get back into this game.
The pace of the game had shifted into overdrive, and it was then that both ASU and Colorado were scoring baskets on each other, any chance they got.
To start the fourth, Arizona State’s rebounds increased to 33. However, the Sun Devils were getting beat inside as the Buffs had scored 28 points in the paint. There was six minutes left of play at this point.
“You always tell your team ‘It’s not about adversity,’ and you get them ready to rise to the occasion,” said Thorne.
Colorado was pushing the ball, setting screens and still looking to get transition points in the paint. The Buffs had cut the lead, once again, to six with 5:38 left to play. The Sun Devils still lead 56-50.
The Buffs and the Sun Devils continued to trade points, but the last two minutes is where Arizona State really took over. ASU went on a 7-0 run with 1:12 left in the game, and their play didn’t stop there. The Sun Devil’s defense was able to limit Colorado to no field goals for the last three minutes of play.
Arizona State would put away this game with a final scored of 73-59. Kianna Ibis contributed 24 points, five rebounds, and three assists in the win.
“We just gotta get back to being a little more efficient,” said Thorne.
The Sun Devils will travel for their next match up against the Stanford Cardinal Jan. 26 @ 8:00 p.m. MST.