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Sidebar: ASU women's basketball's slow start leads to blowout loss

Sun Devils exit from Pac-12 tournament after 12 point loss to Stanford in semifinal


ASU redshirt junior guard Courtney Ekmark (22) drives towards the basket during the second half of ASU's 58-46 loss to Stanford in the senifinal round of the 2018 Pac 12 Women's Basketball Tournament on Saturday, Mar. 3, 2018 at KeyArena in Seattle, Washington.

All season the Sun Devils have been haunted by one bad quarter. Many times it was the third, sometimes it was the fourth, but in the team's 58-46 loss to Stanford it was the first quarter.

The Sun Devils seemed to come out flat on offense, shooting 10 percent from the field, scoring a total of three points and trailing the No. 16 Cardinals 13-3 after one.

ASU continued to stumble into the second quarter, falling behind by 20 at one point but eventually the Sun Devils found some of their rhythm and started making shots from the field.

Stanford was playing the Sun Devils in tight man coverage throughout the first half, and the picks that ASU leaned on throughout the tournament were not giving Sun Devil shooters enough space to get their shots off.

Head coach Charli Turner Thorne felt this was due to Stanford's size and length, as they closed down passing lanes making offense difficult for the Sun Devils.

This defensive pressure led to forced passes by the Sun Devils which the Cardinals took full advantage of, grabbing six turnovers and scoring nine points as a result in just the first half. By the end of the game, Stanford had forced 12 turnovers.

"We didn't hit shoots, we need to shoot better offensively," Turner Thorne said. "We battled, we just had to make more shots and we didn't."

The Sun Devils also received little production from forwards redshirt junior Courtney Ekmark, junior Kianna Ibis and sophomore guard Robbi Ryan.

One night after the trio combined for 44 points against Oregon State, they were shut down by the Cardinals for a total of 11.

"We just didn't execute, they were chasing (Ekmark) up and down the court," sophomore guard Kiara Russell said. "(Ibis) couldn't get going, we were taking good shots we just couldn't get them to fall."

It also did not hurt the Cardinals that freshman guard Kiana Williams was nearly perfect from the field in the first half (5-6). Williams was almost solely responsible for the Stanford halftime lead of 14 points.

By the end of the game, Williams was the top scorer for the Cardinals as she dropped 24 points in just 22 minutes of action.

In the second half, the Sun Devils started to play with more energy, but the effects off the first quarter still loomed large.

Especially when the Sun Devils seemed to grab momentum and finally ended up on the right side of a run, they had trouble digging themselves out of the opening quarter hole.

Despite the increase in the Sun Devils' offense, the Stanford defense stayed aggressive and when ASU was able to get an open look they could not convert with any consistency.

All this added up to Stanford outscoring the Sun Devils 20-10 in the third and leading 52-28 heading into the fourth.

In that final quarter, the Sun Devils put it all together, scoring 18 points on 50 percent shooting while holding Stanford to just six on 25 percent from the field.

Yet it was too little too late for ASU, who still fell 12 points short of the Cardinal to end their time in the 2018 Pac-12 Women's Basketball Tournament.

The two bright spots for the Sun Devils were Russell and junior center Charnea Johnson-Chapman. Russell led the team with 12 points in 28 minutes on the floor.

Johnson-Chapman picked up 10 points and seven rebounds on the day. The center also continued her elevated postseason play by matching her career-high in blocks with three for the second time in the tournament.

"Just wanting to be there for my teammates and making sure that we play together," Johnson Chapman said. "I'm planning on keep doing that for the rest of the season."

Turner Thorne made it clear that she was proud of the way her team competed over the tournament and she is already looking toward the next week of practice.

Over the next week, the Sun Devils will prepare for the possibility that they will compete in the NCAA March Madness tournament – the official bracket will not be revealed until March 12.

"I couldn't be more proud of this team and how they carry themselves," Turner Thorne said. "They are amazing young women and we are not done." 

Reach the reporter at and follow @JoshZaklis on Twitter.

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