Comebacks have not been uncommon for No. 5 ASU this season.
There was the upset of Oregon State on the road in double-overtime, the unprecedented 20-0 run to end the game against Utah, but tonight, it was Miami.
ASU, who had been down from just before halftime until the final five minutes, defeated No. 4 Miami on their home court 57-55 Sunday night in Coral Gables, FL.
It was an unusual scoring night for the Devils. There was a wealthy spread of scoring but only one eclipsed double-digits. Junior Jamie Ruden scored 10 off the bench. Junior Robbi Ryan, seniors Kianna Ibis and Sophia Elenga each added nine points.
“I just tried to take any opportunity my teammates could create for me and they were really encouraging me and hyping me up to keep shooting,” Ruden said. “That helped me a lot to just keep that confidence going.
“I’m just really pumped up. I’ve been yelling for like a half hour.”
The way the game was playing out, ASU looked destined to be sent home in the round of 32 for the fourth consecutive season. They were out-rebounded, they did not shoot as well from the floor, but it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
“Every loss we’ve had, we’ve learned from it,” Ibis said. “We just knew it came down, like to a battle of possessions and just having those close games, especially in our conference, definitely helped us and prepared us for the situation that happened today, and I’m glad we got the win today.”
Arizona State also succeeded in categories Miami did not; notably turnovers. ASU limited themselves to just seven while Miami surrendered 15; 10 of which were in the second half.
It was even an inbound turnover with 10 seconds left that Ekmark stole away from Miami, allowing Ryan to breakaway and draw the shooting foul.
“My player was actually open at first,” Ryan explained. “But they are looking to pass into the post, so I had a chance to recover. They are just really close to each other, and I don’t know if she bounce passed or not but I was able to leave my hand in there and tip it to Courtney and I just took off running.”
After making both free throws, there was still five seconds of game left for Miami to tie or even win:
Arizona State survives this crazy last possession from Miami pic.twitter.com/jzBMad0otm— espnW (@espnW) March 25, 2019
The other success was with Arizona State’s bench. Led by Ruden, the bench scored 29 of the teams final total. It is the depth that coach Turner Thorne has stressed the importance of all season.
“I said I think our bench is going to be the difference in the game going into this game, and I think they were,” Turner Thorne said. “It’s so amazing to sometimes be able to sub and get better in certain areas, and we do. I mean, [Charnea Johnson-Chapman] is a phenomenal defender, rebounder, but we needed to score and here comes Sophia and here comes Jamie.
“You know, it’s huge for us, and it’s going to serve us well, obviously in Portland.”
This will be coach Turner Thorne’s fifth trip to the Sweet Sixteen in her tenure at ASU. For the seniors (excluding Ekmark) it will be their first trip; the trip they have so coveted since their freshman seasons.
Coral Gables— Sun Devil WBB (@SunDevilWBB) March 25, 2019
“I’m so proud of them,” coach said. “This group’s been to the NCAA Tournament every year but this has been elusive to us, so to finally take that next step -- not final step, next step. But we know that we can make the final step.”
Like Friday, their opponent is not yet known, but it will be the winner of the game between No. 9 Clemson and No. 1 Mississippi State.
They will play again Friday the 29th against whoever wins in Portland. ESPN will continue coverage, though the time is not yet known. The game can also be heard on NBC Sports Radio AM 1060.
Here is the complete bracket.