CANCUN, Mexico -- Adrianne Thomas forced overtime on a buzzer-beating layup and the Arizona State University women's basketball team pulled away down the stretch for a 94-81 victory over No. 11 North Carolina on Friday at the Cancun Challenge in Cancun, Mexico.
For the Sun Devils (5-1), who won their fourth straight game, it was their first win over North Carolina (5-2) in five lifetime meetings.
“Coming into this game we had a very confident basketball team,” said Sun Devil head coach Charli Turner Thorne. “Every one who played, played well. We really believed in ourselves that we could play great position defense without fouling and that we could score the basketball in a lot of different ways.”
Thomas finished the game as the team's leading scorer with a career-high 23 points, (career-high-tying) eight assists and three rebounds in a game where five Sun Devils posted double-digit scoring days.
“Adrianne continued to just be fantastic in terms of pushing the ball and creating with her penetration,” said Turner Thorne.
Deja Mann added 17 points, six of which coming on back-breaking three-pointers in the overtime frame to help the Sun Devils close the game out. Joy Burke had 13 before fouling out and Katie Hempen had 10. Sophie Brunner scored 10 points - six of which came in the overtime frame - and 10 rebounds for her first career double-double.
“We got big shooting from Deja and Katie and Joy continued to play at the high level we know she can,” said Turner Thorne. “Sophie had been hobbled a little bit because of a sprained ankle and hadn’t been herself, but I would say Sophie is back. She was great from the line and came up with some big rebounds for us.”
Helping ASU get off to a good start was Arnecia Hawkins, who scored all nine of her points in the first half.
“Arnecia really did a good job of adjusting today,” said Turner Thorne. “She not only knocked down her shots, but she gave us good, solid defense off the bench and she played great on both ends of the floor.
The Sun Devils forced 23 turnovers and had a plus-six advantage on the boards (49-43). In addition to Brunner's 10 boards, several others contributed, including Mann, Burke and Eliza Normen, who had seven rebounds each.
ASU also had a 16-13 edge in offensive rebounds, which led to 18 second-chance points. Of equal importance was ASU’s ability to limit North Carolina’s scoring on second-chance opportunities. Averaging 18.0 second-chance points through its first six contests, UNC had only 10 on Friday.
“We knew that it was going to be an absolute battle and that we would have to do a great job controlling the boards,” said Turner Thorne. “To me, that was the game because they didn’t get their normal second chances to score points.”
The Sun Devils would have to overcome several obstacles on their way to Friday’s win. Among them: 16 missed free throws, 24 turnovers, which led to 23 North Carolina points, and three starters who fouled out in the second half and overtime – Promise Amukamara, Burke, Kelsey Moos.
ASU led by as many as five in the second half before the Tar Heels fought back to reclaim the lead.
With the Tar Heels up 59-53, Katie Hempen knocked down a 3-pointer and Burke scored on a layup on consecutive possessions to get ASU within a point with 7:20 remaining.
North Carolina would bounce back with an 8-2 run to take a 68-60 lead. It was at the point that Thomas, Mann and Brunner would take over as they combined for 15 of ASU's next 17 over the last 3:29 of regulation.
Helping ASU’s comeback effort was UNC’s 5-of-11 performance from the line over the last 2:38 of the game. After a layup by Thomas cut UNC’s lead to 77-75 with 10 seconds left, Moos immediately fouled Tar Heel Diamond DeShields. The freshman guard, who led all scorers with 28 points, gave the Sun Devils a chance after missing both free throws. Mann grabbed the rebound and immediately advanced the ball up the floor. ASU’s top shooter from beyond the arc this season, Mann pulled up and attempted to win the game with a 3-pointer. Her shot would miss, but Thomas was able to swoop in to grab the rebound and beat the buzzer with a layup to force overtime.
The Tar Heels scored the first two points of the extra session, but the Sun Devils would dominate from there, scoring on their next five possessions. A jumper by Hempen, a 3-pointer by Mann and a jumper by Brunner in the span of 1:24 put ASU up 91-81 with 1:26 remaining.
ASU shot 67 percent from the floor (4-6) and 3-point range (2-3) and 88 percent from the line (7-8) in overtime while limiting UNC to only 29 percent (2-7) from the field. Mann finished the game with a career-high five 3-pointers with four of those coming in the final four minutes of regulation and the overtime period.
“It was the epitome of staying with things,” said Turner Thorne of ASU’s comeback. When UNC made that run in the middle of the second half we did not drop our heads at all. I think something our team can take from this game is because we play great defense and can score quick, six, eight, 10 points isn’t a lot (to overcome) if we are locked in and doing what we can do.
“Coming back and having to overcome that against a great North Carolina team is going to help us down the road because there will be games in the preseason and the Pac-12 that we will need that level of confidence.”
Arizona State will next set its sights on Arkansas State tomorrow at 11 a.m. MT in the conclusion of the Cancun Classic. The game can be heard live on 1440 AM KAZG.