No. 22 Sun Devils Fight Through Adversity For 73-59 Victory Over Colorado
By Dylan Carter // Women’s Basketball Beat Writer for Blaze Sports
TEMPE, Ariz — After fighting through a week of injury, sickness and fatigue, the No. 22 Arizona State Sun Devils (14-6, 5-3) snapped their three-game losing skid with a 73-59 victory over Colorado (11-8, 2-6) on Sunday afternoon.
The chemistry between forward Kianna Ibis and guard Robbi Ryan prevailed as Ibis put on a show with 24 points and Ryan set a career-high in assists with eight in the game.
Despite adversity, coach Charli Turner Thorne’s squad is back on track. In addition to out-rebounding the Buffaloes 40-25, the Sun Devils more than doubled their opponent’s assist total with 21 in the game. Their emphasis on attacking the glass and moving the ball have kept the Sun Devils as a top-tier team in the PAC-12.
“Nobody’s 100 percent right now, so you’re used to it as a coach,” Thorne said. “You always tell your team ‘It’s not about if you have adversity, it’s when.”
Adversity came sooner rather than later for sophomore Kiara Russell, who has been dealing with a stomach illness through the past week. According to Thorne, Russell was sick prior to Friday’s loss against Utah and received an IV during halftime. Even through the sickness, Russell finished with eight points and three rebounds.
“She is just one of the toughest kids I’ve ever coached,” Thorne said. “I’m excited to get everyone healthy and on the upswing.”
A gritty back-and-forth first quarter was capped off with an 8-0 run in the final 1:08 of the quarter by Arizona State. Led by Ibis, who hit three of her first four shots for seven points in the period, the Sun Devils built a dominant 20-9 lead to start the game.
Just as the Sun Devils finished the first quarter strong, Colorado finished the half hitting five of their last six field goals to cut the ASU lead to just seven. Junior guard Kennedy Leonard led the Buffaloes with nine of her 23 points in the first half. Her aggressive cuts to the basket and swift passes surged Colorado back into the ball game.
Through their three-game losing streak, the Sun Devils consistently struggled to rebound at an efficient level. As part of their turnaround, ASU attacked the glass with reckless abandon. They were led by junior Charnea Johnson-Chapman, who put on a rebounding clinic with 12 boards on the night. Of those rebounds, five came on the offensive end. Through thick and thin, one thing remains constant for the Sun Devils: when they attack the glass, they perform better.
“We needed to get back to rebounding offensively and defensively because that fields everything and gets us more possessions,” Ryan said.
While they did hold a firm lead at the half, ASU’s shooting efficiency was less than favorable. They connected on just 13 of their 37 attempts from the field and committed seven fouls early. Colorado’s zone defense and overwhelming size forced the Sun Devils into poor shots throughout the afternoon.
Despite trailing for the entirety of the game, Colorado cut the Sun Devil lead down to as low as six points midway through the final quarter of play. Coming out of a much-needed timeout by Thorne, ASU returned to their leading scorer for two consecutive buckets.
Even with the Sun Devils’ growing lead, the Buffaloes refused to give up late in the fourth quarter. Their guard tandem of Leonard and junior Alexis Robinson attacked the Sun Devils’ defense in hopes of mounting a comeback that never came to fruition.
Ibis has worked to expand her shooting range throughout the year and has become a respectable deep shooter. She hit two of her four three-point shots and poured in a flurry of deep midrange jumpers throughout the game. As the season continues and the competition of conference play builds, Ibis’ ability to stretch the floor and create shots is becoming an invaluable asset for ASU.
“I’ve been working on expanding my range a lot. Being confident and shooting the three has developed as I’m becoming more experienced,” Ibis said.
The Sun Devils are headed to Maples Pavilion next Friday for a matchup with the Cardinal. Arizona State came away with a seven-point victory in their last meeting and will look to improve upon their 4-3 record in away games this season.
Dylan Carter is a beat writer for Blaze Sports covering ASU Women’s Basketball. You can reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow Dylan on Twitter @DylanHCarter .