In terms of great comeback stories, think of staring down the impossible; having to claw your way back after setting yourself back so far. That was No. 19 ASU (18-6, 9-4) on Sunday.
With determination, grit and belief, the Devils compiled a 20-0 run to end the game and beat Utah (18-7, 7-7) 60-58.
Two minutes into the fourth quarter, ASU found themselves down 58-40 before their remarkable run that left their coach nearly speechless.
“WOOOH!” coach Charli Turner Thorne exclaimed. “That’s all I got to say.”
“We’re super excited right now,” junior Robbi Ryan said. “We didn’t play very well the first three quarters of the game, but really came together and started to play like we usually do, in the fourth quarter, and obviously came up big.”
Ryan finished with 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting. Senior Courtney Ekmark added 15 on 4-of-9 shooting as well.
The first three quarters was a struggle. Shooting alone, the first half saw the Devils make only seven field goals.
The turnovers were uncharacteristic; they had 10 of their 13 before the final quarter. Shots were not properly set up during their possessions, and Utah was draining buckets left and right in response.
After three quarters, the score was 55-38.
“Utah is a really good team,” Turner Thorne said. “At halftime, I said ‘they’re playing this game like it is their last game, and if we don’t make a change and start playing that hard, then we’re not going to win.’”
So what happened?
Both teams scored early in the fourth, a two-pointer from Ryan and a three in response by Andrea Torres of Utah.
For the final eight minutes of the game, ASU was the only team to score. Similar to their first game against Utah this season, ASU closed out with their unprecedented 20-0 run.
The game was iced after Ryan tied the game at 58 with a three, and Ekmark was fouled attempting a three on the next possession. Her two made free throws were the difference.
“We’re speechless,” Ekmark said. “It just shows how good we can be. Going into the fourth quarter, we said ‘it’s not over’. We all believed, and when Charli told us we could do it, we all believed. That’s amazing.”
Timely shooting was not all that allowed the Devils to prevail.
There was a block underneath by senior Charnea Johnson-Chapman. Johnson-Chapman then collected an offensive rebound that assisted Ryan’s game-tying shot. Junior Reili Richardson took an offensive foul on one of Utah’s final possessions to get the ball back. The defense forced an over and back which led to Ekmark’s trip to the line.
“In the fourth quarter we felt more connected,” senior Kianna Ibis said. “We had more flow on offense, and defensively we got it done.”
This game is one of the larger comebacks in program history. Additionally, this is the fourth consecutive game against Utah that had just a two-point differential. The two this year ended in ASU’s favor.
Where does a game like this rank for the players and coach?
“I’d say number one,” Ibis said. “I feel like this is a pretty big win for us; to be able to come together and make up all those points and be able to win.”
“It’s definitely towards the top,” Ryan said. “It just shows how far coming together and having such great determination and feeling each other can get you.”
“I don’t really live in the past at all so it ranks as my best win ever,” Turner Thorne said. “It’s always fun to blow a team out, but when you fight back and show that toughness, I love that.
“Every win is special in it’s own way, but I’m gonna remember [this one].”
ASU will hit the road next week when they face the Bay Area schools. They first will visit Cal (14-10, 5-8) for a Friday night matchup.
The game will tipoff at 8 p.m. It will be broadcast on Pac-12 Network and can be heard on NBC Sports Radio AM 1060.