ASU women’s basketball uses third quarter run to defeat rival Arizona

First half adjustments gave the Sun Devils their 18th victory on Friday

ASU found its rhythm against the University of Arizona Wildcats on Friday in Tempe when it defeated its rival 75-50. The Sun Devils bounced back after a tough road stretch in Los Angeles, where the team slipped out of the rankings and became fifth in the Pac-12 rankings.

ASU (18-9, 9-6 Pac-12) has protected Wells Fargo Arena the entire season with a 12-1 record. For the Sun Devils, winning tonight’s game not only meant a win over their state rivals, but a momentum boast altogether. 

After junior forward Destiny Graham made both free-throws, the Sun Devils went on a 21-1 run for the rest of the third quarter. In that stretch, the Wildcats turned the ball over seven times and the Sun Devils capitalized on every chance possible. 

“It was definitely our energy,” sophomore guard Robbi Ryan said. “Just playing together, we came out in the second half with a lot more intensity and energy, and that just fueled everything for us.”

Ryan had the hot hand all night as she finished with a career-high 24 points and added five rebounds while shooting 66.6 percent from the field. 

“I tried to stay aggressive, and my teammates created opportunities for me,” Ryan said.

The Sun Devils were without sophomore point guard Kiara Russell who was nursing an ankle sprain. Because of Russell's absence, the three other guards – Ryan, sophomore Reili Richardson and junior guard Courtney Ekmark –logged more than 30 minutes on the night.

Head coach Charli Turner Thorne said Ryan and Ekmark are very skilled and smart players, as they took over the point guard duties on Friday night.

“We (Arizona and ASU) are both in the same boat with a lack of depth," Turner Thorne said. "I think our guards, for a while now, have been playing pretty long minutes, and I think in a game of this magnitude, you will get over it.”

Ekmark stuffed the stat sheet, finishing with 17 points, five steals and five rebounds while shooting 60 percent and playing 32 minutes. 

“I was just trying to help my teammates,” Ekmark said. “Just trying to be active on defense and really giving them nothing easy was our game plan. ... Hopefully in this next game, we can build on that and just give them no free touches.”

The Sun Devils had four players in double figures behind Ryan’s 24 and Ekmark's 17 point performances. As a team, the Sun Devils shot 56 percent from the field and scored 32 points off 23 forced turnovers.

There were six lead changes in the first half as the Wildcats (6-20, 2-13 Pac-12) took the lead twice in the first 20 minutes. However, none of it mattered as the Sun Devils picked up their defensive mentality and left the Wildcats deep in the shot clock.

The Sun Devils will face the Wildcats again, this time at the McKale Center on Sunday at 4 p.m. MST. The Wildcats are a better at home than on the road, winning five of their six games overall at the McKale Center. 

Reach the reporter at or follow @SebastianEman24 on Twitter. 

Like State Press Sports on Facebook and follow @statepresssport on Twitter.

Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.