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ASU Women’s Basketball: Mental errors down the stretch sends fifth seed ASU home packing

High amounts of turnovers and fouls stalled ASU’s ability to play a complete game of basketball.

Steve Rodriguez/Sun Devil Athletics

If you consider yesterday’s matchup with Colorado, there were similarities that made it almost feel like deja vu.

After a rough first half, the team behind responded with an unprecedented third quarter to find themselves within range of taking the lead, and then failed to keep the foot on the gas in the fourth. That was Arizona State (20-10) today.

In an unusual performance, fifth seed ASU would be sent home in the quarterfinals by fourth seed UCLA (20-11) in a 73-69 loss Friday afternoon.

Senior Kianna Ibis scored 14 to lead the Devils. Senior Sophia Elenga off the bench scored 11 and junior Reili Richardson had 10.

“We’re very disappointed,” coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “We’re not a team that turns the ball over, and we’re not a team that fouls. We were just not the disciplined team that we normally are and so it’s a little tough to swallow.”

A team that averages 12.1 turnovers a game was hit hard with 17 turnovers. Richardson, who carries the second best assist to turnover ratio in the country (3.91) had seven assists and five turnovers; including the final turnover ASU would make down by five with just seconds to go.

“We were just inside our heads too much,” Richardson said. “That affected the whole team. We need to carry more energy to our team and feel each other on the court.”

Fouls were being called left and right against ASU. They once again committed above average with 18 calls against them, 3 more than their average 15 a game.

Ibis, Elenga and senior Courtney Ekmark each had four personal fouls.

“I was just not really focused,” Ibis said. “I was just a little undisciplined.”

Despite the uncharacteristic performance, ASU battled out of halftime much like Colorado did yesterday.

In the third quarter, they came with better focus and were determined to make the most of every possession. After allowing four points to UCLA, ASU turned on the jets and compiled 13 unanswered points to trim the lead down to just one.

Part of the big third quarter was Elenga, scoring six of her 11 in that quarter.

“I was just really playing all out,” Elenga said. “Not thinking about everything else and wanted to make it for my team. Just play every minute like it was the last minute because tough games are coming soon, too.

“Just want to enjoy it as much as I can.”

“Sophia is playing hands down the best basketball of her career right now,” Turner Thorne said. “She was amazing today.”

Not just Elenga was providing off the bench. 25 points came from bench players; stepping up when the team needed it most.

“It’s important for us; especially with the offense,” Turner Thorne said. “With this little bit of practice, I’m very excited.”

While it stings now, there is a whole other tournament on the horizon for the Sun Devils.The bracket for the NCAA Women’s tournament will be announced on Monday, March 18th.

Perhaps ASU won’t be slated to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament, but they certainly will be thought of as a true competitor.

“We have redemption coming,” junior Kiara Russell said. “This is our second chance to empty out and do the things we talked about and executing what we are supposed to do. It’s all up to us on how we perform in the tournament.”