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No. 23 ASU women's basketball guts out much-needed win over Oregon

The struggling Sun Devils fought their way to a key victory against the visiting Ducks.

ASU senior Sophie Brunner (21) and freshman Reili Richardson (1) defend in a basketball game against Oregon at the Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, Ariz. on Sunday Feb. 5, 2017.
ASU senior Sophie Brunner (21) and freshman Reili Richardson (1) defend in a basketball game against Oregon at the Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, Ariz. on Sunday Feb. 5, 2017.

For now, ASU women's basketball fans can breathe a sigh of relief.

Just over 36 hours after a tough loss to No. 11 Oregon State, No. 23 ASU entered its Sunday afternoon bout with Oregon on the heels of a four-game losing streak

"W-H-E-W," head coach Charli Turner Thorne said.

Despite the quick turnaround, the Sun Devils fought their way to a win they desperately needed, downing the Ducks by a final of 68-63 behind an improved three-point attack and a bevy of clutch plays down the stretch.

"That was a fun game," Turner Thorne said. "That was a great game. We cranked up our defense, we turned them over, we got to the free throw line. I thought it was a great team win."

In the midst of a seesaw fourth quarter, a wing triple by sophomore guard Sabrina Haines with a hand in her face opened up a two-point lead for the Sun Devils (15-8, 6-6 Pac-12). A fadeaway by senior forward Sophie Brunner on the following possession had ASU up 59-55 and forced an Oregon timeout.

Brunner led the way for her team with a game-high 17 points and six rebounds. 

Out of the timeout, the tide continued to turn the way of the home team, as a shot clock violation by the Ducks led to a key layup by senior forward Quinn Dornstauder with under four minutes remaining. 

Although they couldn't seem to score as consistently as they may have liked down the stretch, the Sun Devils' defensive intensity was enough to stave off Oregon (15-9, 5-7 Pac-12), as the visitors scored just two points over a seven-minute stretch of the fourth.

"I think it's huge for a young team," Turner Thorne said of her team's fourth-quarter defense. "That's our Sun Devil teams that we know and love, we just stay poised ... we just come back down and defend, we're not worried about it, we're going to get our stops. I thought we showed a lot more of that today."

It was Haines, however, who delivered the knockout blow with a dagger three from the wing with 34 seconds to force a timeout and all but seal things, putting ASU up 64-57.

Haines finished with 14 points, a season-high for the sophomore, as well as five rebounds.  

"This whole season I haven't really been happy with how my shots have been falling," she said. "I think just finally getting these couple to go in, it took all the weight off."

When asked about Haines' clutch three in her postgame press conference, Turner Thorne simply clapped. 

"How about that," she said. "I'm so happy for her. She's obviously been struggling and she's got a nice shot. For her to get going today is huge for all of us."

Neither team led by more than seven in the first half, but it was clear, at least for the Sun Devils, that they had found a bit of the offensive consistency they had been missing in recent losses. 

Guards like Haines, freshman Reili Richardson and sophomore Sabrina Haines, in particular, found their stroke from three-point range in the first half, each connecting on a triple. Richardson's bomb gave ASU a 25-24 advantage midway through the second quarter.

The two shot a combined 6-of-9 from deep on the game, with each connecting for her second time in the final two minutes of the half to help build a 37-32 lead entering the break.

"They just believed," Turner Thorne said of her guards. "They just kind of relaxed and found the basket."

ASU has a winnable game coming up Friday night at Washington State before visiting a top-ten team in the Kelsey Plum-led Washington Huskies – who bested the Sun Devils in Tempe back on Jan. 15 —Sunday evening. 

But for now, the Sun Devils can simply be glad to be back in the win column. 

"(We wanted this win) pretty darn bad," Haines said. "These last couple weeks have been pretty rough and we just had a lot of stuff that we knew we needed to work on and that we needed to do better."

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