ASU women's basketball holds on to beat California

No. 19 Sun Devils bounced back with a win after a tough loss to No. 6 Stanford on Friday night

After another hard-fought loss to a top-ranked opponent on Friday night, redshirt senior forward Courtney Ekmark wanted ASU women’s basketball to have a bounce-back performance against Cal on Sunday.

While Ekmark did not perform as well as usual from a statistical perspective, she hit a timely three-point shot in the fourth quarter that put No. 19 ASU in position to win 62-61 against No. 24 Cal. What sealed the deal for the Sun Devils' win were back-to-back defensive stops and a game-winning free throw from junior guard Reili Richardson with less than five seconds left in the game at Wells Fargo Arena.

“I am really proud of our team,” said ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne. “We still got to keep getting better, but that is a huge win – Cal is a great team.”

ASU (12-4 overall, 3-2 Pac-12) trailed Cal 61-59 with one minute and 26 seconds left in the game, but decided to keep in senior forward Kianna Ibis

After getting fouled in the low post, Ibis knocked down both free throws to tie the game with just 57 seconds remaining. Although Ibis scored a season-low six points on Friday night in the loss against Stanford, she rebounded with 26 points against Cal on 9-for-12 shooting, including a career-high 4-for-4 on 3-pointers, and six rebounds.

“(After the Stanford loss) Charli got at me and told me that I needed to be more aggressive and that I needed to step up and be a big playmaker for the team,” Ibis said. “I just told myself, ‘I am going to be aggressive today and I am going to be confident and stay confident.’”

In the postgame interview session on Friday, Turner Thorne said she was not pleased with how her defense played. But come Sunday, her mindset flipped as ASU defense kept the Golden Bears at bay, including back-to-back key stops as time winded down.

Turner Thorne credited her team and its aggressiveness as the Sun Devils forced a turnover with 27 seconds left in a tie game, which led to the game-winning free throw from Richardson, and also did not allow Cal (10-5 overall, 1-3 Pac-12) a clean look at the basket on the final play.

This game was not the first time in the season that Richardson delivered in the clutch. Richardson hit a game-winning bank shot to win at Utah on Jan. 4. In that game, Ibis scored a season-high 27 points, but Richardson had to make the final play as the defense keyed in on Ibis.

Although Turner Thorne said an “offensive execution video” will not be made from tonight's outing, she thought her team improved on execution and consistency in that aspect. Richardson agreed, saying ASU did a little more effectively on offense and defense.

“I think we just moved the ball more than on Friday,” Richardson said. “We got good shots, and we knew what we were looking for.”

Still, Turner Thorne critiqued the Sun Devils' box-out efforts, especially on Cal senior forward Kristine Anigwe, who came into Sunday averaging 21.9 points and 14.4 rebounds per game. ASU contained Anigwe to six points and six rebounds by halftime, but Anigwe showed her dominance in the second half, finishing with 21 points and a game-high 16 rebounds, including six offensive rebounds.

Anigwe shot just 5-for-17 from the field, but the offensive rebounds allowed her to get some easy baskets and also draw fouls, getting her to the free-throw line where she went 11-for-12.

“She is tough to stop,” Turner Thorne said. “The thing that was frustrating was that we didn’t box her out. We would get her the first miss, then we would stand there.”

After a tough loss to Stanford and with No. 5 Oregon and No. 10 Oregon State up next on the road, Sunday's bounce-back win was vital for the Sun Devils. 

ASU heads to Oregon to play the Ducks on Friday, Jan. 18, at  7:00 p.m. MST.

Reach the reporter at or follow @NATE_HIATT on Twitter.

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