ASU women’s basketball opened up its NCAA Tournament campaign with a bang and never looked back, riding a 19-2 first-quarter run to a convincing 73-61 victory over No. 9 seed Michigan State Friday evening in Columbia, South Carolina.
With the victory, the Sun Devils advanced to the round of 32 to take on No. 1 South Carolina on Sunday, as the Gamecocks throttled No. 16 UNC Asheville 90-40 earlier Friday afternoon.
“I'm just really proud of our team,” ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “I thought we really put it together today. This is again the first time we've been really healthy since November, we've got a young team, and just all the things we knew they could do I thought they did a great job of on both sides of the floor.”
After going down 6-3 to start the game, the Sun Devils exploded in the first frame’s seven remaining to open up a 24-10 advantage after one.
Despite a quick start to the second for Michigan State — the Spartans cut the lead to as few as 11 on a triple by freshman guard Taryn McCutcheon — ASU used a pair of threes by freshman guard Reili Richardson and junior forward Kianna Ibis to build their lead to 19 in the final two minutes of the half.
By the time the break rolled around, the Sun Devils were in the driver’s seat, holding a 42-20 lead behind Richardson’s nine first-half points — six from long distance — and senior forward Quinn Dornstauder’s game-high 10.
Dornstauder finished with 16 to lead all scorers, shooting a perfect 6-of-6 from the field for ASU. Behind her low-post prowess, the Sun Devils blew up their lead to 58-35 by the end of the third. Richardson added 13 and sophomore guard Sabrina Haines chipped in 15 while shooting 3-of-4 from deep.
"It kind of means everything," Dornstauder said. "I went into this game thinking that this is our only game that we have so far, and to get another game, to play another round, we have to earn it. That was my mindset going into this game."
Defensive pressure was key for ASU throughout the game in dominating the Spartans. The Sun Devils forced 18 turnovers while holding standout senior guard and potential WNBA draft pick Tori Jankoska (22.5 ppg) to just two first-half points.
Despite the rough start, Jankoska found her shot in the second half and finished with a game-high 26 points.
"Everywhere I went there were two people on me," Jankoska said. "If I came off a ball-screen there was someone on me. I get a lot of my points in transition, and when we're not getting stops we can't get rebounds and push the ball."
ASU’s focus now shifts to South Carolina, one of the nation's best teams. The Sun Devils will be hungry for the upset, and looking for revenge from a close loss in the 2015-16 regular season.
"We draw from every game," Turner Thorne said. "South Carolina is obviously one of the best teams in the country. We played them last year ... they're kind of a different team. We also have a quick turnaround to prepare for one of the best teams in the country."
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @Jeff_Griffith21 on Twitter.