By Jeffrey Donley
TEMPE, Ariz. – The No. 23 Arizona State women’s basketball team withstood a late rally to win its third straight game, defeating UCLA 59-57 on Sunday.
For the second time in as many games the Sun Devils (14-2, 3-1 Pac-12) found themselves having to defend in the final seconds of regulation to secure a win. Two days earlier USC connected on a 3-pointer with fewer than two seconds left to force the game into overtime (ASU would go on to win 94-86).
On Sunday it was the Bruins (8-9, 2-3) who had a chance to tie or go ahead in the final seconds. Atonye Nyingifa’s 3-pointer missed its mark, but teammate Rhema Gardner grabbed the offensive board, allowing her a chance to send the game into overtime with a jumper, but it too was off, allowing the Sun Devils to escape with the win.
Arizona State, which is now 6-0 this season in games decided by less than five points or in overtime, was balanced offensively, with eight players scoring points. Adrianne Thomas and Joy Burke paced the team with 11 points each. Sophie Brunner just missed a double-double, scoring nine points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Deja Mann and Promise Amukamara added nine and eight points respectively.
UCLA fought its way back into the game early in the second half, knotting the score, 34-34, with 15:15 remaining in regulation, but the Sun Devils responded with a 7-2 run to regain the lead at the under-12 official timeout, 41-36.
The Sun Devils were unable to maintain momentum and pull away from UCLA, as the Bruins put together a 9-0 scoring run which gave them a lead, 47-46, with 6:06 on the clock.
With the game tied, 54-54, and less than two minutes to play, Thomas drained a three on a dish from Amukamara to give the Sun Devils a three-point advantage, 57-54, forcing UCLA to call a timeout with 1:36 remaining. On the ensuing possession, Nirra Fields missed a long three to tie the game, and Mann was fouled on the rebound. Although Mann missed the front end of the one-and-one, Burke grabbed the board and the Sun Devils retained the ball for a full possession before Burke hit a layup to stretch the lead to five.
From there the Bruins resorted to fouling, a strategy which ended up working to their benefit as the Sun Devils missed five free throws down the stretch to leave the door open for UCLA’s last-second chances to try and tie or win the game.
The Bruins finished the game shooting a 37.3-percent clip (22-59) from the field and 20-percent (2-10) from the perimeter. UCLA held a slight advantage on the glass, outrebounding Arizona State by a 43-40 margin, only the third time the Sun Devils have been outrebounded this season.
UCLA was carried by the efforts of Fields, Atonye Nyingifa, and Thea Lemberger, which combined for 50 of the Bruins’ 57 points. Fields led the way with 20 points, while Nyingifa had 19, and Lemberger added 11 points. Nyingifa also led her team with 12 boards, recording the double-double, while Luiana Livulo had 10 rebounds.
UCLA started the game on a 10-2 run, taking advantage of poor ASU shooting. The Sun Devils were 0-for-5 from the field before Elisha Davis hit a layup with 16:26 on the clock for Arizona State’s first points from the floor.
The Bruins’ early run was about the only thing they had going for them in the first half as they quickly cooled off and finished the half shooting 29-percent (9-31) from the floor despite starting the game with 4-of-5 from the floor.
Using momentum from Davis’ layup, the Sun Devils erased their early deficit with a 9-0 run to take their first lead of the afternoon, 11-10, after Arnecia Hawkins sank a three-pointer from the corner with 12:11 remaining in the first half.
Arizona State only momentarily relinquished its lead in the first half, and took a 28-22 lead into the locker room at halftime. Mann led the Sun Devils with seven points at the break, and Thomas added six in the opening frame. Fields and Nyingifa, who each scored 10 points, led UCLA in the half.
The Sun Devils will continue their home stand this coming weekend, with No. 19 Cal on deck for in the annual Sparky’s Kids to College Field Trip game. Tip off is scheduled for 11 a.m. MT at Wells Fargo Arena.