• December 8, 2021

Arizona State holds off third-quarter onslaught to beat Colorado in Pac-12 first round, 66-49

LAS VEGAS – In the first game of the 2019 Pac-12 tournament, Arizona State (20-9, 11-7) survived a third-quarter offensive onslaught from Colorado (12-18, 2-17) to earn a 66-49 victory at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

Both teams had a sluggish first quarter offensively. However, Arizona State got off to a 6-0 start before Colorado sophomore guard/forward Mya Hollingshed made a jumper.  The snail’s pace offense continued throughout the quarter with ASU heading into the second period with a 13-7 lead. Colorado shot just 20 percent from the floor in the first ten minutes compared to 38.5 percent by Arizona State.

Led by junior guard Robbi Ryan, ASU’s offensive production increased in the second quarter. Ryan had nine points at the half and no other Sun Devil had more than four points at the break. The Sun Devils went into halftime with a 29-17 lead.

The third quarter provided fans with an exciting turn of events as Colorado came blazing out of the break on a 7-0 run that put them within five of the Sun Devils. The team benefited from a productive effort from senior guard Alexis Robinson who earned 13 points to help her team outscore ASU 23-14 in the third period. Overall, the Buffs shot 60 percent from the field in the third quarter compared to 33.3 percent by the Sun Devils.

After a free throw from senior guard Kennedy Leonard with 31 seconds left in the quarter, ASU’s lead was slim, 41-40.  However, the Sun Devils closed out the period with a jumper from senior center Charnea Johnson-Chapman.

The third quarter run gave Buffs head coach JR Payne something to be proud of even after a heartbreaking defeat.

“I said today was sort of the epitome of our entire season, sort of being the underdog and undermanned and facing adversity, but just continuing to never back down, never stop fighting, staying together, and playing really hard for each other,” Payne said. “I thought we showed tremendous toughness and togetherness today, so I’m very proud of our team today.”

The momentum Colorado had in the third quarter dwindled quickly in the fourth as they couldn’t get stops that could translate into offense or even make their three-point shots. The Buff missed all three of their trey attempts in the last ten minutes.

“Well, the fourth quarter I think we saw sort of a reversal on both ends of the floor,” Payne said. “We gave up a handful of threes. In the fourth quarter, these guys were playing a lot of minutes, and I think fatigue set in a little bit. But we had a hard time getting stops in the fourth, and then that transferred into we weren’t able to go downhill and transition as effectively in the fourth as we did in the third, simply because we weren’t getting stops, so it sort of snowballed the wrong way for both offense and defense.”

For Arizona State head coach Charli Turner Thorne, the fourth quarter was a hard-fought triumph.

“I’m really proud of our team for just staying with things and stepping up in the fourth quarter and putting a really resilient Colorado team away,” Thorne said. “That’s the third time — it’s hard to beat a team three times. JR does an amazing job, and they’ve had injuries, but they’re just a top team and you know they’re going to keep fighting.”

Senior guard Courtney Ekmark came up big for Arizona State in second half. At halftime, she only had three points under her belt. However, she ended the game with a team-high 18 plus seven rebounds. Ryan was also in double figures with 13 points and she dished out five assists.

Ekmark explained how her team overcame the Buffs after the third quarter.

“Just being aggressive,” she said. “They came out and kind of jumped on us at the start of the second half, and that’s not what we wanted to do at all. Just trying to get the momentum, shift it back in our way and keep the aggressiveness.”

Robinson paced Colorado with 19 points. leading all scorers. Junior guard Quinessa Caylao-Do added 12 points plus five rebounds for the Buffs.

Arizona will face the No. 4 seed UCLA in the first game of the second round on Friday at 11:30 a.m. PT. The game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.

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