Despite not leading through the first half, a reinvigorated ASU women's basketball team hammered UCLA (10-16, 6-9 Pac-12) in the second half, beating the Bruins 68-56 at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles on Friday night.
ASU (23-4, 12-3 Pac-12) got out to a fast start, getting the opening tip and having senior guard Promise Amukamara score the first basket of the game. However, it didn't last long, as the Bruins quickly came back and took the lead.
They kept the lead through the first half, shooting 54 percent to ASU's 33 percent. UCLA junior Nirra Fields, a 5-foot-9 guard from Montreal, led the Bruins with 10 points and three assists during the first half, and 17 points and four assists overall. ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne said before the game that Fields is considered one of the best guards in the Pac-12.
ASU also gave up 16 turnovers overall, most of which came in the first half.
"Obviously the turnovers in the first half were very uncharacteristic of us and very unforced," Turner Thorne told NBC Sports 1060 after the game.
ASU took more shots than the Bruins but only hit a third of them, owing in part to a strong Bruins defense.
UCLA is also much more aggressive than ASU, which tends to rely on its defense.
"I told our team, 'Listen, they do this a lot,'" Turner Thorne said. "They get leads, they start strong and they struggle to sustain it."
The Bruins are a younger team, and coach Cori Close told Pac-12 broadcasters after the game that she expects her team to perform at the same level as this year's Sun Devils within the next couple of years.
"(ASU's performance) just goes to show what togethernesss, commitment, and improvement can do to our program," she said.
The Sun Devils came out strong in the second half. Despite UCLA starting with the ball, ASU went on a 12-0 run to begin the half.
Junior guard Peace Amukamara, who started the second half, said ASU didn't play as well as it usually does.
"We started slow so we just had to come out and play how we usually play," she said.
UCLA redshirt sophomore Kari Korver put the Bruins back on the board a few minutes into the second half, and they narrowed ASU's lead to one with successful free throws from freshman forward Lajahna Drummer shortly after.
It was the closest UCLA came in the second half. While the Bruins, still led primarily by Fields, came within two points late in the second half, they never passed ASU.
"Man, what an awesome second half," Turner Thorne said. "I'm just so proud of my team."
Redshirt junior guard Katie Hempen led the Sun Devils with 19 points and eight assists, while sophomore forward Sophie Brunner led with 10 rebounds.
"We don't have that post depth right now," Turner Thorne said. "Sophie was just absolutely a beast today on the boards."
With the win, ASU and Stanford are tied for second place in the Pac-12 with three conference games left.
ASU next plays USC on Sunday at 4 p.m. in Los Angeles.
- Brunner, who scored six points and played 35 minutes, may have been playing with food poisoning. Turner Thorne said after the game that Brunner had been nauseous all through it.
- Kelsey Moos, who has been day-to-day after sustaining an elbow injury at the end of a game against Cal on Feb. 8, will not play against USC.
- This win guarantees ASU a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament. ASU will play its first tournament game on Friday, March 6.
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