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ASU Women’s Basketball: No. 5 Devils’ outpace No. 12 UCF to advance to round two of NCAA Tournament

Courtney Ekmark’s 20 points and Kianna Ibis’ double-double lead No. 5 ASU forward in the Portland region.

Steve Rodriguez/Sun Devil Athletics

They hadn’t played a game in nearly two weeks, but No. 5 ASU came prepared a showed that a little distance from home is irrelevant.

ASU dominated No. 12 UCF in nearly every statistical category in a 60-45 route of the Knights in Coral Gables, FL Friday night.

There were plenty of contributions from everyone but it was the senior duo of Courtney Ekmark and Kianna who led the way. Ekmark scored 20 and went 4-of-7 from beyond the arc while Ibis had 12 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double.

“Getting ready to start the second half, Charli told me to light it up right before I started,” Ekmark said. “I think that really got us off to a strong start in the second half, which carried our momentum.”

In some losses this season, ASU has had challenges with scoring depth. However, there was plenty of points to go around on Friday. Seniors Charnea Johnson-Chapman and Sophia Elenga scored eight and six, freshman Iris Mbulito had four, and junior Kiara Russell and freshman Taya Hanson each scored once from three.

“We’re definitely an experienced team,” Ekmark said. “We have four seniors and we have juniors who have played a lot, and you know, it’s our sixth tournament in a row for ASU. Definitely having that tournament experience helped us a lot.”

ASU held to their word about how important rebounding the ball is to them. The team collected 42 boards; 30 of them on defense. They additionally limited a much smaller UCF team to just 27 rebounds.

“We focus on second-chance shots because that’s our best offense.,” Johnson-Chapman said. “Just being able to make a move and get the rebound and go right back up was pretty important.”

Despite outplaying UCF, the turnover count was higher than the team would have preferred. The Devils had 12 assists, but they lost possession of the ball 18 times.

“We had too many possessions off today to be honest, and they know it,” coach said. “That effort is not going to get us to Portland. We know this.”

ASU will continue their battle against Florida schools when they play the winner of No. 13 FGCU vs. No. 4 Miami. ASU has not gone past the second round of the tournament since 2015.

“The mission is to get past the second round,” coach said. “It will be a formidable challenge. We’ll play a very good Florida team.”

Regardless of the winner, the game will tip off Sunday at a time TBA. Coverage will likely be with ESPN, or you can listen on NBC Sports Radio AM 1060.