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ASU Women’s Basketball: No. 19 Devils’ extended week off is rewarded with a victory

Despite having played only twice in two weeks, ASU put together a double-digit win.

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For a team that had played only its third game in three weeks, it went as you may expect.

There was a bit of rust, a couple of mistakes early, but No. 19 ASU (17-6, 8-4) finished the job on a positive note.

The Devils defeated the Colorado Buffaloes (11-13, 1-12) 66-49 Friday night in Tempe.

A lot of the possessions resulted in missed shots which led to droughts of three minutes without points. It happened multiple times at different points throughout the game. In response, ASU would also put together lopsided runs in response to their lack of scoring.

“We’re definitely a little bit rusty and we were super eager to play,” senior Courtney Ekmark said. “Now they key for us is when we go on those runs is to keep the momentum.”

In the fourth quarter, for example, the Devils went scoreless for three minutes. After a timeout, they responded with an 11-1 run over the following three minutes.

“[Coach Charli Turner Thorne] was telling us that when we’re up we need to stay up,” senior Kianna Ibis said. “We keep having letups, and she keeps emphasizing that every possession matters. We looked at each other and said we need to get this win.”

Ibis led the way for ASU with 18 points. Though it was on just 5 of 14 shooting, coach Turner Thorne was pleased with her all-around effort.

“I’m just really proud of her,” coach said. “She wasn’t quite feeling her shot, but she’s blocking shots and getting huge rebounds. Kianna is a complete player.”

Ekmark scored 14 points on 6 of 9 shooting. She was limited from her usual spot beyond the arc by Colorado’s aggressive zone defense; which limited her to just 2 of 4.

“They were definitely guarding me out, but that opened stuff up in the middle for my teammates,” she explained. “When they’re playing you so tight it is easier to go around them.”

At the end of the day, was the unplanned time off a good thing, or a bad thing?

“I think we were pretty hungry and we still are,” Ekmark said. “It’s nice to play two games in a weekend so we’re looking forward to playing Utah on Sunday.”

“It’s hard to take that much time,” coach said. “I thought we were out of basketball shape a little bit. I did like the extra rest. The extra practice i think will serve us well, I just was a little worried about this first game back.

“It was different.”

The road to the finish line began Friday night The Sun Devils. They are currently at the bottom of their uphill battle as they close out the season.

They entered this game in 5th place in the conference behind UCLA, No. 10 Stanford, and both Oregon schools. Following this weekend, The Devils have to face three of the four teams above them - the exception being UCLA - to close out the season.

With the same opponents to close out, ASU will have to finish better than UCLA to nab a first round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament come March. Their success, or failure, could also affect their NCAA tournament seeding, as they are projected to be one spot shy of hosting the first and second rounds.

The Devils will close out their weekend against Utah (18-6, 7-6) Sunday with a 2 p.m. tip. The game will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network and can be heard on NBC Sports Radio AM 1060.