The ASU women’s basketball team certainly had its chances against No. 2 Stanford on Thursday night.
The Sun Devils were within striking distance for the first 36 minutes against the Cardinal, but they could not crawl out of an early hole or make the key plays necessary to close the gap in the second half, and Stanford pulled away down the stretch to earn a 62-43 win at Wells Fargo Arena.
“It’s hard to win when you score 43 points,” ASU senior guard Danielle Orsillo said. “They made it hard for us to score. Kudos to them. We didn’t ‘do us,’ and so I think that just sums up the whole [game].”
The win ups the Cardinal’s Pac-10 record to a perfect 16-0, while ASU now drops to 8-7 in the conference and virtually makes the Sun Devils’ final three regular season games against Cal, USC and UCLA must-wins to keep their slim NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
The Sun Devils (16-10, 8-7 Pac-10) forced 21 Cardinal turnovers, but struggled mightily on the offensive end of the floor as they made just 16 of their 52 field goal attempts (30.8 percent), committed 20 turnovers of their own and recorded their lowest scoring output of the season.
Stanford (26-1, 16-0 Pac-10) jumped out to an early 10-0 lead while ASU went scoreless for the first four minutes of the game before a layup by senior forward Kayli Murphy broke the drought.
That was really all the cushion the Cardinal would need, as it never led by less than five points for the rest of the game.
“We’re working the ball to certain people that we’re developing as [the player] getting the ball in the offense, and they all took turns tonight not finishing,” ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “Anytime you have a game like that, whether you’re playing the No. 2 team in the nation or not, it’s going to be hard.”
Stanford took its largest lead of the first half when a jumper by senior guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude made the score 25-13 with 4:56 to go before the break.
ASU then made its biggest push of the game when a pair of free throws by junior forward Becca Tobin capped a 7-0 run to slice Stanford’s advantage to 25-20 with 1:12 before halftime, but the Cardinal answered with layups from freshman forward Joslyn Tinkle and Gold-Onwude in the final minute to take a nine-point lead into the locker room.
The Sun Devils cut the Stanford lead to single digits on five different occasions in the second half, but could never string together an extended run to make a serious threat.
“For the most part, it’s just the lack of experience still kind of biting us in the butt in big games,” Turner Thorne said. “You don’t have a Dymond Simon just to put the ball in their hands and say, ‘OK, go to work.’”
It was often Stanford senior center and reigning Pac-10 Player of the Year Jayne Appel who had the quick answer for any ASU basket, as she scored 12 of her 19 points in the second half and also grabbed eight rebounds and blocked four shots.
“It’s her senior year. It’s getting toward March, and she’s really been stepping it up the second half of Pac-10,” Turner Thorne said. “I thought we did a good job [defensively] early, and then the lesson for this young team is you can’t have the lapses. It’s a lesson of consistency — of what it takes to win big games.”
Stanford then put the nail in the coffin when a 9-2 spurt gave it a game-high 19-point lead of 60-41 with 1:51 remaining.
Orsillo was the only Sun Devil in double figures with 12 points and also added four assists, while junior guard Tenaya Watson added eight points in her return from a foot injury. Tobin chipped in six points and 10 rebounds.
Stanford junior forward Kayla Pedersen had 12 points, six rebounds and four assists, and junior guard Jeanette Pohlen added 11 points, four assists and three steals.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org