The sights were set high for No. 21 ASU (19-9, 10-7) in their final regular season game. They were hosting the best team in the conference and were looking to end the season on a positive note.
The result may not have been what they wanted, but the Devils certainly proved their worth once again.
ASU dropped its season finale to No. 6 Oregon (27-3, 16-2) 66-59 Sunday afternoon.
Senior Kianna Ibis led the way with 23 points and junior Robbi Ryan scored 12 on 5 of 6 shooting.
“It just came down to rebounding,” Ryan said. “The more rebounds you have, the more possessions you have, and each possession is so valuable. We may have missed shots at times but we didn’t always get the rebound and that was the deciding factor today.”
The rebounds became the factor, given how contested the game was. There were 17 lead changes throughout and the score was tied eight different times. ASU had 33 rebounds while Oregon had 37.
“We knew that we could hang with this team,” Ibis said. “They’re very good scorers, but we’re very good defensively so we knew it was going to be back and forth. It always comes down to the little things.”
“We knew it was going to come down to rebounding and we did not get the job done on the boards,” head coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “That was the difference in the game.”
Leading the rebounding for ASU was junior Reili Richardson with nine. Despite not scoring any points, her aggressiveness underneath and her moving the ball on offense was highly appreciated by Turner Thorne.
“Reili was tough as nails today,” her coach commended. “She pushed the ball almost every possession, ran our team well, defended well, rebounded, she did a lot of great things.”
Aside from losing the rebound statistic, Turner Thorne said the team “needed more people looking to score.”
“I’m excited to see us in March just be much more aggressive, and we talked about it through the game. ‘We’re not going to win unless everybody’s aggressive offensively’, but we lost some possessions because we weren’t aggressive offensively.
“Rebounding and that are the two things we have to take into March. We have to have other people stepping up and looking to score,” Turner Thorne said.
On defense, there were moments of aggression, especially when guarding Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu. Freshman Iris Mbulito, Ryan and Richardson all played a part in trying to hold down Ionescu, who finished with 19 points. She turned over the ball twice when Mbulito picked her pocket on both occasions near half court.
Oregon’s offense was held nearly 20 points below their average of 84.8 points per game against the conference.
Despite the loss, ASU is still on pace to make the NCAA tournament, and could improve their seeding depending on how well they do in the conference tournament next weekend. The road isn’t done, but four roads may have ended at Wells Fargo Arena.
ASU’s four seniors (left to right) Courtney Ekmark, Ibis, Charnea Johnson-Chapman and Sophia Elenga played what is possibly their final collegiate game at Wells Fargo Arena.
“It was very emotional for me,” Ibis said. “Having my teammates help keep me in the moment throughout the whole day is always a great thing to have.
“Thank you to the fans and everyone who has supported me throughout the whole season. I’ve had fun times here. It’s been an amazing four years I’ve had here.”
“It’s a very eclectic senior class,” Turner Thorne added. “You have two transfers and two four-year players. One kid from LA area, one kid from Omaha, one from France and one right here in Arizona. They’re very different in their experiences and what they add from where they’ve been, but very similar in terms of being amazing people.”
The bracket is nearly set for the Pac-12 Conference tournament in Las Vegas next week. ASU will be the 5 seed, and will play against 12 seed Colorado. They will be the first game of the tournament when it tips off next Thursday at 12:30 p.m.
The game will likely be broadcasted on the Pac-12 Networks (coverage information has not yet been announced). It can also be heard on NBC Sports Radio AM 1060.