Fans stormed the court, the players jumped up and down in the middle and celebrated like they had just won the National Championship. Head coach Charlie Turner Thorne was soaked and the Sun Devils had just knocked off the number two team in the country.
“I told our team at halftime, ‘When you win, celebrate like you just won the National Championship because it means you are good enough too,” Turner Thorne said.
With just under seven minutes remaining in the game, the Ducks looked to have the game in control. They had lead the entire game and would go on runs to keep a double-digit lead on the Sun Devils. That all changed after senior guard Robbi Ryan drilled a three-pointer.
The Sun Devils, (12-4, 2-2 Pac-12) down seven, connected on four three-pointers by Ryan and fellow senior guard Reili Richardson to take the lead. This not only gave ASU its first lead, but a final four minutes of toughness from the team.
“I just feel really proud of our whole team,” Ryan said postgame. “Everybody stepped up and it was a big team win. We showed a lot of toughness, we only shot 34 percent. We didn’t really score until later in the game. Having that toughness and competitiveness and staying together, I think really made the difference.”
That toughness and competitiveness lead to a crazy last four minutes of play that saw three lead changes and a tie ballgame.
Oregon’s (12-2, 2-1) Sabrina Ionescu put the team on her back as the Ducks trailed for the first time all game. Ionescu scored eight of the teams 10 points in the four-minute stretch. However, it wasn't enough for the number two team in the country to salvage a win in Tempe.
Lead by a strong senior core of Ryan, Richardson, Jamie Ruden and Ja’Tavia Tapley, the Sun Devils executed a tough mindset to get the 72-66 upset.
“I think it shows how tough we are,” Richardson said. “We are going to grind out the whole game and we are just going to fight no matter what.”
The four seniors finished with all of the teams 30 points in the fourth quarter. Richardson, played a team-high 29 minutes and finished with 12 points. Her biggest performance was at the free-throw line.
In the final 15 seconds, Richardson went to the line and made all four of her free-throw attempts. What many don't know about her performance was that she also played with the flu.
“That’s Reili Richardson,” Turner Thorne said. “She had the flu, 102 temperature this morning. She was exhausted and pushing the ball in transition at the end of the game. She is a leader and she’s got the toughness of a champion and she showed that today.”
The other three seniors mentioned all had key contributions in the fourth, but the one who brought joy to the face of Turner Thorne and players was Ruden.
Ruden, who has been battling injuries as a Sun Devil and in her senior season, has had to miss some games. Tonight, she came off the bench and didn't disappoint. She finished with 12 points (5-11, 2-4 3-pt) and five rebounds.
“I’m so just so proud and happy for Jamie,” Ryan said. “She’s struggled a lot with different injuries and it's taken her in and out of practices and games. Just to see her out on the floor for one, it makes my heart happy and then just to see the success and what she brings to our team is awesome.”
Ruden’s seven points in the fourth brought the team from down one to up three during her time on the court.
Turner Thorne mentioned the team’s performances over the course of the year with playing close games. Now, the Sun Devils were able to come out on top in a Pac-12 game against a ranked team.
“We have been down this year,” Turner Thorne said. “This was definitely our best performance of the year. That level of toughness and focus, we just need to bottle it and keep bringing it.”
This is the Sun Devils’ first win over a top-five team since beating Stanford in the 2002 Pac-10 championship game.
They will have another chance to knock off a top-five team with No. 3 Oregon State (15-0, 3-0) coming into Tempe on Sunday. Turner Thorne was asked if the team might let up in the upcoming game.
“It’s hard to let up against the number three team in the nation,” Turner Thorne said. “I think this team, especially the seniors, they aren't going to let up.”