Nov. 26, 2012
By Nick Kostenko, Digital Communications Intern
Throughout its storied history, Sun Devil Athletics has seen its share of successes. From Rose Bowl and Elite 8 appearances, to countless national championships, every sport has been integral in building a strong athletic department. It's difficult to find a more successful single-day in Arizona State history than Friday, Nov. 23, 2012, however, when four programs notched key victories.
Women's basketball opened the afternoon with the first matchup of the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout in Las Vegas against University of Northern Iowa. The young team struggled to capture a win in their first two games of the season, but this game would turn the tide. Several individual players had career nights, and the team set a number of season highs as well, as the Devils defeated UNI 66-63 to seal its first win of the season.
Junior forward Joy Burke and senior guard Micaela Pickens both tied their career high in points, with 14 and 13, respectively, and the team as a whole shot a season-high 47 percent. The game was a back-and-forth contest, with both teams holding a lead at various points in the game. The Sun Devils were clearly the dominant team though, as UNI could only manage leads of one point. ASU had a number of lopsided runs to regain their advantage, including a 17-8 run that gave the Sun Devils a 34-28 lead going into halftime that they would not relinquish.
After seeing the women start the day with a victory, the men's basketball team had no desire to be left out of the winning. Also playing in a Las Vegas tournament, the men took down Arkansas, finishing off the Razorbacks with a decisive 83-68 win. As is typical with this year's team, Arizona State saw contributions from every player on the court. Three Sun Devils reached double digits in points as senior wing Carrick Felix led the team with a career-high 24 points. Rebounds were key in the victory, with the team managing 42 rebounds to Arkansas's 32. Junior center Jordan Bachynski and sophomore forward Jonathan Gilling both led the way with 13 rebounds each. The win gave the Sun Devils a 4-0 start for the 5th time in 28 seasons, and the confidence shift from last season is hard to miss.
"(The win) proves who we are as a team," freshman guard Jahii Carson said. "It was a good test for us and I'm just pleased with the win. We gave good respect to Arkansas, but we played well."
|Click the image above to view a Storify from the entire day!|
As the sun began to set, the scene would shift back to Arizona, where both volleyball and football faced difficult matchups against their biggest rivals, Arizona. Playing in Tempe on Senior Night, the volleyball team hoped to follow up their Wednesday night victory against No. 5 Washington by defeating the Wildcats and keeping their playoff hopes alive. They did that and more, getting a commanding 3-1 win over UA thanks to double-digit kills from a trio of outside hitters that included senior Erica Wilson (17), freshman Macey Gardner (14) and freshman Whitney Follette (10). Despite losing the first set, the Sun Devils would win the final three sets 25-17, 27-25 and 25-19. ASU returns to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006 and will take on Oklahoma on Friday, Nov. 30 in Provo, Utah.
Last but certainly not least, the Arizona State football team had to play its biggest rival game of the season with the Territorial Cup on the line. Turnovers were among the most important aspects of the game, as ASU scored 28 points off turnovers compared to Arizona's three.
"We come together when stuff hits the fan and adversity hits," sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly said. "I kept coming to the offensive line and telling my guys to keep their heads up and stay focused and good things are going to happen. We were able to get the interceptions going and everything just started clicking from there."
The Sun Devils held the lead going into halftime, thanks to junior running back Marion Grice rushing for two touchdowns, to put ASU ahead 14-9. ASU struggled to open the second half, giving up 17 straight points to the Wildcats and finding themselves behind, 27-17. Just when things were starting to look bleak for the Sun Devils, senior safety Keelan Johnson forced a fumble, which led to a touchdown from senior running back Cameron Marshall. An interception on the very next drive allowed quarterback Michael Eubank to rush for a one-yard touchdown and put ASU ahead for good. The Sun Devils brought the Territorial Cup back to Tempe with a 41-34 victory.
"I want to do it right this time," head coach Frank Kush in the locker room. He kissed it. He was pretty excited. We met a couple times this week and he reminded me the importance of this game.
The football team finished with its first winning season since 2007 and will compete in a bowl game that will be determined at a later date.
Football's victory came just before midnight, capping off a stellar day for Sun Devil Athletics. Fans and staff members alike will remember the day as one of the most successful single days in Sun Devils' history.
"I am so proud of our student-athletes and coaches on the job that they did getting ready for the big weekend," Vice President of Sun Devil Athletics Steve Patterson said. "What a fabulous weekend for Sun Devil fans everywhere. The Sun Devil community should be very proud of what was accomplished this past weekend."