The No. 19 Sun Devils were up four heading into the fourth quarter. Then, things switched gears as the Trojans found themselves with their first lead since early on in the first quarter. With under two minutes to play in the fourth and down three, ASU found a way to make a game for the ages.
Senior guard Reili Richardson has lived up to the big occasions in her final season as a Sun Devil and in today’s game it was not different for her.
As the Sun Devils (16-5, 6-3 Pac-12) trailed the Trojans coming out of a Charli Turner Thorne timeout, Richardson converted on an and-one and brought the team back level with the Trojans. Richardson’s go-ahead running layup looked to seal the win in front of 5,000 screaming kids but it wasn’t meant to be.
USC (11-9, 3-6) lead by freshmen guard Endyia Rogers and forward Alissa Pili kept the Trojans in the game and forced overtime. Rogers made her jumper with 29 seconds left in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 51. ASU had the final possession and it seemed as if the perfect way to cap off win number 500 in Turner Throne’s career would be on a buzzer beater. Things didn’t go that way in the fourth quarter. Pili blocked senior forward Ja’Tavia Tapley’s shot and sent the game into overtime, after the Trojans failed to get a shot off at the end of regulation.
Rogers would finish the game with 30 points, five rebound and four assists in 49 minutes. Pili added 18, seven rebounds and three steals.
Both teams were ready to start their Fridays on a good note with an overtime win. However, it didn't take one or two overtimes to decide a winner. After trading baskets for 10 minutes, the third overtime was settled as the determining five minutes of basketball to be won by either team.
With the game tied at 69, this was the first game in program history that a triple overtime game was played, and it had the ending to prove it. Rogers opened the scoring with a midrange shot over her defender, sophomore guard/forward Iris Mbulito, giving the Trojans a 71-69 lead. Richardson would quickly answer with a bucket of her own.
After free throws were made by both teams, the score was leveled at 73 with 90 seconds to go. Senior forward Kayla Overbeck for USC hauled in an offensive board and on the put back, gave the Trojans their 14th point on second chance opportunities, and a 75-73 lead.
ASU had one last chance to tie or win the game and the ball was in the hands of senior guard Robbi Ryan. Ryan had 11 points and had found a way to get open on off-ball screens throughout the game. This time, she took the ball to the rack and missed the layup. her awareness to grab the loose ball gave the Sun Devils one more chance to score. Ryan found a wide-open Richardson on the right wing and without hesitation, the senior guard shot the 3-ball and drained it. ASU regained the lead, 76-75, with one second left.
USC had one last chance to win the game on an inbounds pass. Freshman guard Alyson Miura heaved up a deep 3-ball and missed the shot. The Sun Devils escaped an upset and won their 16th game of the season. For Turner Throne, it was her 500th career win and she stated that every milestone victory hasn't been the easiest.
“It is true to form,” Turner Throne said postgame about the milestone win. “You can go back and look, every milestone win I’m pretty sure that we have ever had has been exactly this. Ugly, grinded out, one possession, crazy. We knew it was coming but I don't know how we are going to top triple overtime.”
Turner Thorne continued to say postgame that Richardson has really worked to become a better shooter since arriving at ASU, four years ago.
“Reili, she's really shooting the ball well right now,” Turner Throne said. “Whats showing up is what we already knew, she has a great shot and she has a scorers mentality and she can really score the basketball. I’m so proud of her.. and she was being aggressive and that's what we need from her. She has earned everything.”
Richardson finished the game with a career-high 24 points (3-7 3-pt) and added five assists and three rebounds in 40 minutes.
She explained postgame what was going on in her head throughout the final stretch of the fourth quarter through the third overtime. Richardson constantly hit big shots to keep her team in the game and eventually winning the game on her last second three.
“I didn’t make all my shots throughout the game,” Richardson said postgame. “I just wanted to keep shooting and knock down shots.”
In the fourth quarter and on, Richardson had 19 points to lead ASU onwards to victory.
The team as a whole felt confident in being able to come out with a victory, even if it took three overtimes.
“Yeah I felt very confident in our team,” Ryan said. “We didn’t play our best, but we are tough and even when we don't play well, we find ways to win and I think that’s what we did today.”
With the milestone victory for Turner Thorne, Richardson, Ryan and Mbulito gave high praise to their head coach for giving them a chance to help get her to win number 500.
“Charli is everything to us,” Ryan said. “She gave us this awesome opportunity to play basketball at one of the highest levels and she does a lot for us and im just so grateful to be a part of her 500th win and she deserves it.”
Richardson added that Turner Throne is a great person on and off the court
“She really cares about us and everything we do in life,” Richardson said. “Im really thankful that I have her as my coach.”
Mbulito the newest addition to this year’s team from Spain, said Turner Thorne is like a mother to her.
“She's like my mother here in America,” Mbulito said. “I just really appreciate everything she does for us and she takes care of us. She's an amazing coach.”
The No. 19 Sun Devils will face another ranked foe at home, this time being the No. 8 UCLA Bruins who narrowly defeated the Sun Devils 68-66 at Pauley Pavilion.