ASU women's basketball ran away from the upset-minded USC Trojans in a dominant final quarter at Wells Fargo Arena Friday night, picking up a 69-62 win in the regular season's penultimate game.
"Well that was fun," head coach Charli Turner Thorne said. "I thought it was a great team win overall."
ASU (18-10, 9-8 Pac-12) carried a ton of energy into the fourth quarter off a miracle shot by senior forward Sophie Brunner at the third-quarter buzzer.
Following a steal, she pulled up and fire a bomb from the opposite three-point line – at least 70 feet from the basket – and banked it in to give her team a 49-46 lead.
"First off, I have no idea how that went in," said Brunner, who admittedly didn't call "bank" prior to the shot. "I thought I was going to air ball it. I looked up and there were three seconds left ... I was like, 'well, I better just shoot it,' and somehow it just went in, I have no idea how."
According to Turner Thorne, Brunner has hit more game-winning "Starbucks shots" – as her team refers to half-court-and-beyond shots – than any other player she's coached combined.
"Well, I'm a bit of a Starbucks addict," Turner Thorne said. "When we shoot a half-court shot or something for fun, we call it a Starbucks shot."
The Sun Devils used the momentum from those shots to take control in the fourth, capitalizing off of a heightened defensive intensity and a couple of big shots by Brunner.
It was a 14-0 fourth-quarter run over the course of about five minutes that ultimately sealed things for ASU, as the Sun Devils simply took over on both ends of the floor in the waning minutes.
"We felt the momentum shift, we felt good," Turner Thorne said. "I thought we just kind of cranked it up in the fourth quarter. I thought we got really comfortable with our shifts and stuff too, and stayed aggressive."
As far as the first half was concerned, both teams had their offense going early, each shooting over 50 percent in the first quarter. By the end of the period – which saw six separate ties – the Sun Devils held a slim 16-14 lead.
At that point, Brunner already had six points and two rebounds. She went for a game-high 20 points, clearly feeling it with several impressive post finishes and fade-away jumpers.
"She's a beast," Turner Thorne said of Brunner. "The kid does chin-ups with a 45-pound plate between her legs. She's a beast, she's awesome."
In the second frame, ASU found a steady inside attack from Brunner and senior center Quinn Dornstauder, but USC shot a couple of key threes over the zone defense deployed by the Sun Devils to keep things tight throughout.
Dornstauder – who finished with 19 points and six rebounds – came up with a key three-point play down the stretch and ASU entered the half up 31-29.
"How about our senior class?" Turner Thorne added. "Our senior class really stepped up."
Freshman guard Reili Richardson, with the assist on that basket, tied a school record set by 2005 graduate Kylan Loney for most single-season assists by a freshman. She ended up breaking the record in the fourth quarter, finishing the night with nine points and four dishes.
"She's really good," Turner Thorne said. "Obviously, I've spoken a lot about her poise, she's a great passer, which I love. It's a lost art."
One of the major patterns of the game was physical play, as a combined 37 fouls were committed, 25 of which were by the Trojans. Two USC players – junior forward Kristen Simon and freshman forward Asiah Jones – fouled out in the fourth quarter.
ASU outscored USC 38-36 in the paint.
"Every game has been super physical this year," Dornstauder said. "It's just a matter of playing through that, because that's just the way it's been called this year."
The Sun Devils close out their regular season at noon on Sunday, celebrating senior day with a home matchup at Wells Fargo Arena against No. 15 UCLA before heading to Seattle for the Pac-12 Tournament next weekend.
"March is right around the corner," Brunner said. "After this weekend, no game is guaranteed."
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