Last night when asked about how the Sun Devils would handle No. 10 Oregon State's star senior center, Marie Gulich, head coach Charli Turner Thorne said "you'll have to wait and see." On Friday, ASU fans saw exactly how, as the Sun Devils held Gulich to just four first half points and six on the game on the way to a 57-51 victory over the Oregon State Beavers.
The secret: physicality and position defense.
“There was a big emphasis on her (Gulich)," junior center Charnea Johnson-Chapman said. "Just the possibility of getting her out of her comfort zone was key for us.”
Johnson-Chapman, and fellow junior, forward Sophia Elenga were responsible for containing Gulich throughout the game. The forward said she and Johnson-Chapman knew how key Gulich was in the Oregon State's success.
"Last game she scored 36 points and scored most of them in the second half," Elenga said. "We were not going to let that happen again."
Turner Thorne was also very pleased with Johnson-Chapman's effort, as well as her teammates, in guarding Gulich.
“I thought (Johnson-Chapman) was unbelievable in her effort," Turner Thorne said. "Obviously it was a team effort on Gulich, we weren’t going to let her beat us single handed again.”
The victory was not without adversity for the Sun Devils, who blew their five point halftime lead trailing by four late in the fourth to the Beavers.
Unlike in previous games, the Sun Devils responded to that adversity by putting up points. ASU was lead by junior forward Kianna Ibis who picked up a double double with 14 points and 14 rebounds in 28 minutes of work.
Ekmark picked up 18 points and five rebounds with all five of her made field goals coming from beyond the arc. Ryan added 12 points of her own and five rebounds of her own, as the trio (Ibis, Ekmark and Ryan) combined for 44 of the Sun Devils 57 points.
“We were just looking to stay aggressive and looking to play for each other and play with each other," Ryan said. "That was the biggest thing, moving for each other, taking good looks and trying to stay poised on offense."
That offensive energy started early for the Sun Devils who opened the first quarter by grabbing a 10-2 lead.
This early lead was highlighted by the Sun Devils' ability to out rebound the Beavers (6-3) with 3:10 left in the first.
After being burned by Gulich in the first game, the Sun Devils took a more physical strategy with the center in the first quarter. The physicality seemed to deter the Beavers from passing to Gulich, only taking two of Oregon State's 10 first quarter shots, but draining both of her attempts to end the quarter behind 12-7.
Oregon State came roaring back to start the second quarter on a 9-0 run before a foul line jumper from Elenga made it a 16-14 Beaver lead.
Despite shooting 34 percent to Oregon's 38 percent in the first half, the Sun Devils were able to grab a five point, 26-21 lead heading into the halftime break.
ASU started the second half by dropping four quick points to expand their lead to nine points before Oregon State answered with a three point bomb.
The Beavers quickly scored six unanswered points to pull within one point of the Sun Devils cutting the lead down to 32-31 with a little under5:30 remaining in the third quarter.
At the start of the fourth quarter, both teams were still locked in, as the Beavers held a 46-44. Both teams started off the fourth ice cold combining for one field goal in the first three minutes of the quarter.
Despite playing tight defense, the Sun Devils still found themselves behind as they could not find the bottom of the bucket for nearly six minutes in the fourth quarter down 50-46.
Once ASU found the bucket they couldn't miss, hitting three straight to go on a 7-0 run and take a 51-50 lead with 1:48 left in the fourth.
The Sun Devils continued to play tight defense and grew their lead to three points with 45 seconds to play.
A turnover and foul by Ryan put Oregon State on the line where the Beavers went one-for-two and Ibis grabbed the rebound off the miss giving ASU possession.
From there it was the simple matter of getting fouled and making free throws, which Ryan did to perfection to put the game on ice for the Sun Devils.
The Sun Devils will take on Stanford tomorrow in the semifinals at 8:30 p.m. PST in Seattle.