ASU women's basketball couldn't make the right play to capture momentum and suffered a tough loss to rival Arizona, by a final score of 62-58 in a back-and-forth Territorial Cup thriller at the McKale Center Tucson Friday night.
"This team is not playing loose," said ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne. "They're playing like they need to win, like they have to win. We're missing easy shots, we're rushing. That was just ridiculous, our effort on defense based on how we prepared and what we gave them. It was so frustrating."
In the final minute of play, a key fadeaway by senior forward Sophie Brunner pulled her team within one point, as the Sun Devils (16-10, 7-8 Pac-12) struggled to capture an elusive lead in the game's waning minutes.
After a layup on the other end, freshman guard Reili Richardson missed a game-tying triple attempt from the wing, sealing ASU's heartbreaking fate.
"What we've been doing lately is just too little, too late," senior forward Kelsey Moos said. "We're waiting until the end of games to start picking up our effort ... that can't cut it. This level has to be from the tip-off, it has to be a full 40 minutes, we can't just do it when we're feeling like it."
One of the few bright spots for the Sun Devils was Moos' return from a foot injury. She hit a three-pointer early to score her first points since Jan. 1, and her presence was felt in the form of a four-point, six-rebound output in 20 minutes of playing time.
Moos, however, wasn't as concerned with her own play as she was with the team's efforts overall.
"At the end of the day it doesn't matter how we did individually," she said. "I'm more concerned about the loss that we took. I just need to do what I can do to help the team and we all need to improve on a lot of things on both ends of the floor."
The Sun Devils struggled in the first half, particularly on the offensive end, as they entered the half with a 10-of-29 shooting mark from the field.
Arizona capitalized with a mid-second quarter run that allowed the Wildcats to open up their biggest lead of the game, 25-16. They stayed on the gas pedal offensively to lead 31-26 entering halftime.
The Sun Devils came out of the break and snatched a little bit of momentum, using an 8-0 run to lead 36-33 midway through the third. Senior forwards Sophie Brunner and Quinn Dornstauder, who had combined to shoot 4-of-13 in the first half, made key baskets in the post to help spark the run.
But without the help of their four freshman guards, who combined for 4-of-18 shooting from the field, those seniors' efforts weren't enough.
"You've got to have some perimeter shooting, you've got to have a little bit," Turner Thorne said. "It's just hard. (The seniors) don't have a lot of margin error because everyone else is so inconsistent."
Brunner, Dornstauder and Moos were also key for their team on the offensive glass, ripping down 18 of their misses. However, ASU as a whole failed to fully capitalize off of those key offensive boards, amassing just 15 second-chance points.
"They just flat out outworked us," Moos said. "At the end of the day they wanted it more than we did and they did the things that they had to do to take the game."
Although this loss will certainly sting, ASU won't have to wait long to try and avenge it, as the Sun Devils take on Arizona at home in Tempe, Sunday at 4 p.m. at Wells Fargo Center.
"No matter what, on Sunday we're going to get the job done," Brunner said. "It's going to happen. We're not losing twice to them in a row. This game means more than winning or losing, it's for our school. We have to take pride in this."