The Arizona State Sun Devils (7-2) struggled in the first half against the Idaho State Bengals (4-3). They were able to turn things around in the third quarter and maintain a steady lead, until the Bengals fought their way back late in the fourth.
The Sun Devils showed dominance and perseverance to hold off for a 74-69 overtime win over the Bengals.
Idaho State’s Callie Bourne hit a three-pointer with 12 seconds left in the game, tying things up 59-59 and extending the game. The Sun Devils started overtime on a 9-0 run, but the Bengals weren’t done yet and were able to keep things close until the end.
Despite the early deficit, the Sun Devils knew that they should be the ones to finish with the win.
“We knew that it was our game,” senior guard Kiara Russell said. “So we knew we had to be the more aggressive team from the start and in overtime and have each others’ back.”
The team is still without senior forward Jamie Ruden and sophomore guard Jamie Loera, who are both dealing with injuries. Things got even worse for the Sun Devils when senior guard Robbi Ryan went down with an ankle injury in the second quarter. She was leading the team with eight points at the time.
Head coach Charli Turner Thorne was unsure of Ryan’s status postgame, but knows that her experience on the team is crucial, and it showed when she got hurt. With Ryan out, the team only has three healthy seniors playing.
Turner Thorne expressed the impact of having such a young team.
“Everyone else is a new player and that showed,” Turner Thorne said. “Just a lot of inexperience, and a lot of inconsistency on both sides of the ball...This young team they don’t fully understand what it takes to be a top team yet. They aren’t doing the little things on the court and off the court. When they start doing that, they’re going to be really good.”
Two seniors that became key components in Sunday’s win were Russell and forward Ja’Tavia Tapley. Both scored in double digits and had record nights.
Russell had a career-high 14 points, while Tapley accumulated her second double-double of the season, with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
“She was so tough,” Turner Thorne said of Russell. “She was so determined. There was no way she was going to let us lose that game.”
The Bengals lead the Sun Devils 35-29 at half. They were out-rebounding the Sun Devils 17-15 and shot 46 percent from the field, compared to the Sun Devis 40 percent.
The Sun Devils struggled from behind the three-point line, missing all five of their attempts, while the Bengals completed all four of their shots. But something changed at the half.
“Evaluate and adjust,” Russell said on what the halftime message to them was. “Stop letting them put their head down and drive with no help side. Doing the little things and just being there for each other. We had to be aggressive right back, running our offense is obviously key for us.”
Tapley added that rebounding was also discussed, something the team has stressed since the start of the season.
The Sun Devils changed things around and started the third quarter on a 7-0 run, to regain the lead 36-35. They maintained the lead for the rest of the third quarter, but let up in the fourth quarter allowing the Bengals to make a comeback and send the game into overtime.
What was talked about at halftime was applied on the court. The Sun Devils finished the game with 47 rebounds, holding the Bengals to only 26. They shot 48 percent from the field, with 31 points coming off the bench.
“Every win is huge for our team right now for all these young kids learning how to win,” Turner Thorne said. “It’s just a tough schedule. There’s no easy outs left. We started out slow with the first two games and after that it’s picked up. It’s been pretty good competition.
“Usually, November is really hard and December is lighter, I like that we have a harder December schedule. I think it’ll serve us well heading into Pac-12.”
The Sun Devils will pick things up in Tempe Saturday against New Mexico State at 2 p.m. MST.