ASU women's basketball storms back, downs No. 19 Florida

The Sun Devils erased a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to earn their first top-25 win of the season, taking the ASU Classic title in the process.

Down by 12 entering the fourth quarter and facing another difficult loss to a nationally-ranked opponent, ASU women's basketball head coach Charli Turner Thorne had a message for her team. 

"I just tried to make them believe," she said. "I'm like, 'guys, we've got this. There's a ton of time, we can cover this spread in a couple of minutes, we've done it before.'"

The Sun Devils took her words to heart, and it showed, as they displayed a wealth of character in clawing all the way back to earn their first marquee win of the season, 69-63, over the 19th-ranked Florida Gators

The win clinched the ASU Classic title in front of the Wells Fargo Arena crowd Sunday afternoon. 

"This is great for our young team, to get a win like that," Turner Thorne said. "Just to know how to stay with things, battle through when your shots aren't falling and win against a top-ranked team, so I'm so happy for them." 

Having entered the fourth quarter down by double-digits after a sluggish third, the Sun Devils (5-2) ended up notching their first lead since before halftime on a three-point play from senior center Quinn Dornstauder, 61-59 with just 2:54 to go. 

Another clutch layup by Dornstauder put ASU up 67-63 entering the final thirty seconds, as the Sun Devils were able to hang on for the victory and cap off their outstanding comeback. 

"We always talk about our toughness muscle," Turner Thorne said. "It's something you keep trying to build and grow. We flexed it pretty good tonight. I think we're getting tougher, last week to this week we took the punches, punched back, we kept our poise, we didn't let stuff bother us today. I've seen a ton of growth from last week to this week, which is fun."

Dornstauder finished with 13 points and eight rebounds, and was second in each category for her team behind senior forward Sophie Brunner, who had a double-double of 14 points and 10 boards. Brunner's effort earned her the ASU Classic's MVP award for the third time in her four years. 

Sophomore forward Kianna Ibis had a breakout game in the win, earning a season-high 12 points and shooting 5-for-8 from the field.

But it was freshman guard Reili Richardson – who excelled on the defensive end and finished with nine points, three rebounds and three assists – who received the highest praise from Turner Thorne following the win. 

"Reili Richardson just had probably her coming out game," she said. "In terms of just defensive plays, offensive plays, pushing the ball, did it all."

After quickly trailing 6-0 out of the gate, the Sun Devils responded by forcing seven first-quarter turnovers, scoring the next seven points to finish off the frame up 16-12 and, most importantly, awakening themselves and their home fans in the process.

Following five quick points from senior forward Kelsey Moos in the last 40 seconds of the first – including an insane put-back while fading away from the basket – the Sun Devils opened their lead to as many as six with a jump shot by Richardson. 

By that point, it was becoming pretty clear the game was underlined with a clear level of physicality. Both teams' play down low was vital, as ASU was outscored 36-34 in the paint but out-rebounded the Gators 40-36.  

"They're obviously a really physical team, but that's how a lot of our opponents play," Brunner said. "They were hitting us first in the beginning so we just had to hit them back and just stand our ground and play physical, and play to their level of physicality."

ASU entered the locker room knotted in a 30-30 tie. By that point, Moos was 2-for-2 from deep and led the way with eight points. She finished with 11.

The Sun Devils will have another shot at a ranked opponent on Sunday, Dec. 11, when they hit the road to take on the 17th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats, before visiting a strong mid-major Middle Tennessee team. 

And according to Turner Thorne, she feels exponentially better after a character win like her team earned Sunday. 

"I can't even express it," she said. "I think this might be the toughest road trip we have all year, including the Pac-12. We need it, it'll be great for this young team. This win allows us to actually be ready to have a great road trip. Without it, I'm not sure where we'd be."

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Reach the reporter at jeff.griffith21@asu.edu or follow @Jeff_Griffith21 on Twitter.

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