No. 17 ASU women's basketball defeats Fresno State 68-52

The Sun Devils will carry a seven-game winning streak into conference play

For the second time in two years, the No. 17 ASU women's basketball team knocked off the Fresno State Bulldogs, this time in Tempe by a score of 68-52 to extend its winning streak to seven games.

After a seven-point halftime lead, the Sun Devils cruised in the second half to secure the 16-point victory to improve their record to 9-2.

Redshirt senior guard/forward Courtney Ekmark hit five three-pointers on her way to a game-high 17 points for ASU. The team's leading scorer on the season, senior forward Kianna Ibis, poured in 15 points on 7-for-15 from the field and grabbed five rebounds. Junior guard Robbi Ryan also chipped in with seven points.

"We're seniors so we have to bring that sense of urgency and we just try to be as aggressive as we can and help our team out as best we can," Ibis said.

Ekmark and Ibis have embraced their leadership roles within the team. Thursday's win wrapped up ASU's non-conference slate and Ekmark said that the team will now need that leadership more than ever.

"We always talk about having a team-led team so (we're) definitely focusing on that, especially going into Pac-12 because it's just going to get harder from here," she said.   

Early on, the Bulldogs' full-court pressure and zone defense seemed to bother the Sun Devils to the tune of eight turnovers in the first quarter and 17 for the game. Despite the miscues, ASU was able to withstand Fresno State's defensive activity as the game unfolded.

Coach Charli Turner Thorne said the team's turnovers were due to a lack of focus and pressing fundamentals. 

"They took us out of flow," she said. "I thought as the game went on, we got better. We started getting some 2-on-1's."   

Entering the fourth quarter, ASU held an eight-point advantage. With an impressive defensive display of their own, the Sun Devils held Fresno State to seven points in the last quarter to take command of the game.

Fresno State was led by sophomore guard Aly Gamez, who scored 16 points to lead the team, including 11 points in the third quarter to help keep the Bulldogs afloat. Senior Candice White also contributed 15 points in the loss.

As ASU approaches conference play, the team acknowledges the tough road ahead, as five Pac-12 teams are currently ranked and only one team has a sub .500 record. 

"That's what you want to play in: a league that's competitive," Ekmark said. "That's definitely the Pac-12 so it's going to be an exciting 2019."

Turner Thorne took the praise to another level.

"I think we are hands down, top to bottom, one through 12, the best conference in the country," Turner Thorne said. "We easily have three or four teams that could be in a Final Four this year, in my opinion."

Turner Thorne added that she includes ASU in that mix.   

The Sun Devils will return to the court to take on rival UA on Dec. 30at 5:00 MST in Tucson.


Reach the reporter at kmgianco@asu.edu and follow @Kaleb_Mart on Twitter.

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