TOLEDO, Ohio – Katie Hempen (16 points) and Sophie Brunner (14 points) came off the bench to combine for 30 points to lead Arizona State to a 69-61 win over Vanderbilt in the first round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.
The win, ASU’s first in NCAA Tournament play since 2009 when it advanced to the Elite Eight for the second time in three seasons, snapped a three-game losing streak, which included losses to NCAA Tournament teams Oregon State and Pac-12 Tournament champion USC.
Elisha Davis (11 points) and Promise Amukamara (10 points) also scored in double figures for the Sun Devils (23-9), who will face unbeaten and top seed Notre Dame on Monday. The Fighting Irish advanced to the second round with a 93-42 win over Robert Morris in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader.
Ultimately, the outcome of Saturday’s game wasn’t so much about what Vanderbilt (18-13) did or didn’t do, but rather what ASU did exceptionally well. The Sun Devils shot a season-high 62 percent from the floor, including 43 percent from beyond the arc (6-14). In addition, ASU outrebounded the commodores 33-20 while also collecting 20 assists on 29 made baskets.
“When we’re playing like we played today, we feed off each other,” said ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne, who improved to 12-8 in NCAA Tournament games. “This is the team that won 20 out of 23 games (to start the season). We continued to step up and feed off each other. When we weren’t winning (toward the end of the regular season) we kind of did the opposite.”
For the second time in as many games, Hempen tied her career high with four daggers from downtown. Also proving to be just as lethal on the offensive end was Brunner, who knocked down a career-high seven field goals while coming one rebound short of a double-double.
Hempen’s first two triples came as part of an 18-8 run by the Sun Devils to start the game.
Her next two 3-pointers would be even more crucial.
As the half wore on the Commodores started to find their rhythm as they used a 14-2 surge to take a 22-20 lead after Morgan Batey’s layup with 3:19 remaining in the half.
With the Sun Devils momentarily on the ropes, Hempen would counter with a pair of 3-pointers in a 34-second span to enable ASU to go back on top 26-22. ASU would extend its lead to 30-24 at the half.
Deja Mann, ASU’s leading scorer throughout the year, was plagued by foul trouble in the first half and played only six minutes. In the second half the senior guard would make her presence felt as she scored all eight of her points over the final 20 minutes. Mann’s first field goal of the game, a 3-pointer, broke a 32-32 tie. A little more than two minutes later Mann hit another shot from long range to put ASU on top 40-34.
Christina Foggie, who had 16 points for the Commodores, got Vanderbilt within two after knocking down a 3-pointer midway through the second half.
ASU countered with a 10-3 run as four different Sun Devils – Davis (four points), Amukamara (two points), Mann (two points) and Hempen (two points) – contributed to help extend the lead to 54-45.
A pair of free throws by Marqu’es Webb, who had a game-high 18 points, hit two cut ASU’s lead to six. That’s as close as the Commodores would get, however, as ASU would lead by as many as 11 in the final four minutes to secure their spot in Monday’s second round game.
The Sun Devils’ shooting was on point in the second half as 62 percent of their shots found the bottom of the net. Brunner (4-5), Amukamara (2-2), Davis (2-2), Hempen (2-3) combined to hit 83 percent of their shots (10-12) in the final 20 minutes.
The Sun Devils and Fighting Irish will face off on Monday (6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT) for the right to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Monday’s game can be seen on ESPN2 and can be heard live on NBC Sports AM1060 (coverage begins at 3 p.m. in the Valley).