TEMPE, Ariz. – A second consecutive trip to the Sweet 16 was not to be for the No. 11 Arizona State women’s basketball team as the Tennessee Lady Vols upset the Sun Devils, 75-64, in the second round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.
In her final game as a Sun Devil, senior guard Elisha Davis led ASU with a career-high 18 points to go with six assists and three steals. Davis (7-10 FGs) and junior center Quinn Dornstauder (6-10 FGs, 15 points) combined to connect on 65 percent of their shots. Senior guard Arnecia Hawkins (13 points) and junior forward Sophie Brunner (12 points) also scored in double figures for the Sun Devils (26-7), who came into the NCAA Tournament with their highest seed in program history (No. 2 in the Sioux Falls Region).
“Obviously not the result we wanted,” ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “Credit Tennessee, I thought they really played very well. Any time we had any kind of miscue or didn't do what we needed to do, they took advantage of it. We knew the game was about the boards. They ended up plus six. If we would have been plus six, I think we would have won. We kind of softened our pressure a little bit to keep them in front of us. Though we didn't turn it over quite as much; the rebounding was huge.
“I love this team. They have been a blast to coach. They have been amazing. Definitely have not under-achieved. They have had an incredible year and have an amazing spirit, and I've just been so proud of everything they have accomplished. Just really, really going to miss the senior class, too.”
Tennessee (21-13), the No. 7 seed in the region, had four players – Diamond DeShields (24 points), Jordan Reynolds (12 points), Mercedes Russell (12 points) and Jaime Nared (11 points) – score in double figures. The Lady Vols knocked down 52 percent of their shots and outrebounded the Sun Devils 36-30.
Time and again the Sun Devils would battle back from deficits only to see Tennessee counter with sudden bursts of offense.
Trailing by seven at the midpoint of the third quarter, ASU would quickly get back within two after Brunner scored on a layup and senior guard Peace Amukamara followed with a 3-pointer. Tennessee would answer by scoring 10 of the game’s next 12 points to take a 54-44 lead. Davis made sure the Sun Devils would not go down without a fight as she beat the third quarter buzzer with a shot from long distance that found nothing but net.
The shift in momentum carried over into the fourth quarter as Dornstauder hit a jumper on ASU’s first possession of the final stanza that got the Sun Devils within five. ASU would get stops on each of Tennessee’s next two possessions, but it was unable to trim any more off Tennessee’s lead after turning the ball over on one possession and missing a shot on another.
After a jumper by DeShields put Tennessee back up by seven, ASU would come back and score the next three points on free throws by Davis (1-2 FTs) and Dornstauder (2-2 FTs) to get within four, 56-52, with seven minutes remaining.
DeShields, who scored 14 of her 24 points in the final quarter, came back with back-to-back jumpers to put the Lady Vols back up by eight. ASU’s offense went through a cold spell in the middle of the quarter that lasted more than three minutes and the Sun Devils would again find themselves down by double digits after Reynolds’ layup put Tennessee up 62-52 with five minutes left.
ASU would not give up as Brunner hit four straight free throws to once again make it a two-possession game, 62-56, with 2:07 left. That’s as close as ASU would get as DeShields came back with a jumper and the Lady Vols went 11-for-12 from the free throw line in the final minute to clinch the win.
Regular-season co-champions of the Pac-12, the Sun Devils concluded the 2015-16 campaign with 26 wins, tied with the 2008-09 team for third most in school history.
Davis ends her Sun Devil career No. 2 on ASU’s all-time list for both career assists (483) and most career assists in the NCAA Tournament (34). Fellow senior Katie Hempen, who went over the 1,000-point mark for her ASU career on Sunday (1,001 points at ASU), departs as the program’s all-time leader in career 3-pointers (185) and career 3-pointers in the NCAA Tournament (19).