The last time No. 22 Arizona State (17-8, 7-6 Pac-12) faced the Washington State Cougars (11-14, 4-9 Pac-12), they trailed by 10 late in the third quarter but were able to come out victorious.
This time around, the Sun Devils started off hot but faced some second half battles. Even after a difficult stretch to end the game, they defeated the Cougars 62-59.
It breaks a three-game losing skid for the Sun Devils.
Despite some scoring struggles early in the first quarter for both teams, ASU was able to find its groove late in the first quarter and led 16-10 after the first 10 minutes. A special factor that came alive for the Sun Devils early was senior forward Ja’Tavia Tapley.
She made an impact early this season, but has been quiet on offense lately. That was not the case in Saturday’s game. At the end of the first quarter, Tapley had put up six points.
“It felt great,” Tapley said. “I know that was something I needed to improve on from the last two games, so I just made it something that I focused on this game, especially rebounds and scoring strong.”
The Sun Devil offense continued to add to their lead in the second quarter. After an early 4-0 run for the Cougars, ASU called a timeout and regrouped. It was back-and-forth all quarter, with the Cougars gaining their first lead of the game halfway through.
But by the end of it, ASU was back up and went into halftime with the fans excited after senior guard Reili Richardson threw the ball to Tapley to hit a buzzer beater. The Sun Devils went up 29-21.
However, the second half brought many struggles and hurdles.
“I wanted to hold (Washington State) like we held them in the first half,” head coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “That’s what we aren’t doing. We aren’t holding teams for two halves. That’s very hard to do, so that’s what we’re shooting for.”
At one point in the third quarter, they led by 12 points. But the Cougs weren’t done fighting. ASU was struggling to make baskets, and weren’t coming up with stops, which led to the Cougars tying things up at 38
The Sun Devils went 4-for-18 from the field in the third, while the Cougars went 8-for-12.
It was a hard-fought battle the entire fourth quarter, with the lead going back-and-forth between each team. It came down to the final minutes to determine who would take home the victory.
With 15 seconds left, the Cougars put themselves within one with a basket made by Jovania Subasic. The score sat at 58-57.
ASU needed timely shots from the charity stripe, and Richardson put in two free throws to extend the Sun Devil lead. Washington State answered, but another set of free throws from the senior guard sealed the deal.
“One thing we did do is stick together and stay positive with each other until the end when things were getting tough and getting hard,” Tapley said. “We made sure that we were staying together and finishing strong. Anything can happen and we made sure we took that.”
Richardson ended with 22 points and five rebounds. 15 of those points came in the second half. Just like Tapley, she has been a key component for this Sun Devil team and seems to find a way to get it done in the fourth quarter.
“I just like to win,” Richardson said. “I get my team fired up and I want to take every game in the fourth quarter. It’s just like a switch flips in me and tells me ‘You need to go and do the little things, work hard.’”
Washington State is 10th in the Pac-12 standings, but the ASU knew this wasn’t going to be an easy win in a conference that has battles every night.
“From now on, every game is going to be hard,” Tapley said. “Every game is going to be tough, it’s the Pac-12. We either come ready and finish strong and play as a team as we usually do or get beat.”
Tapley ended the game with 14 points and six rebounds, and senior guard Robbi Ryan racked up 10 points as well.
The Sun Devils will stay at home to face the Washington Huskies Sunday at 12 p.m. MST.