ASU women's basketball ended its season with a 50-48 loss to Houston in the Women's National Invitation Tournament Monday in Fort Worth, Texas, with a potential game-winning 3-pointer from junior guard Taya Hanson at the buzzer falling off the mark.
ASU fell behind by as much as 12 points in the first half, came back to take a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter but proceeded to score just two points in the final 6:50 of the game.
"I think we're all pretty frustrated, and really we just didn't get rebounds like we needed to down the stretch, and we didn't execute the whole fourth quarter," head coach Charli Turner Thorne said.
She added that she did not believe Houston was better than ASU, but the former team showed more toughness to close out the game.
Houston originally got up big when ASU struggled against defensive pressure early on. The Cougars forced 10 turnovers in the first quarter and scored eight of their 21 points in the period off of turnovers.
However, the Sun Devils adjusted, outscoring the Cougars 30-18 in the second and third quarters.
"We're not a team that wins on our offensive effort; we win on our defensive effort, which gets us into offense," freshman forward Katelyn Levings said.
ASU scored 18 points off of 20 forced turnovers in the game. Sophomore forward Eboni Walker was especially disruptive, recording four steals. She and Levings led ASU with 10 points each.
However, a weak fourth quarter led to ASU's demise. The team scored just six points in the period, with four coming from Walker.
Turner Thorne called the season challenging considering she had to lead one of her youngest teams through a season with limited preseason work and COVID-19 disruptions.
"This season was just really, really hard trying to coach a team that didn't get to properly prepare and wasn't in shape and didn't have any returning starters or seasoned veteran players that show the way," Turner Thorne said. "The COVID protocols every day, I mean, it's been so much more exhausting than it normally is."
Although she said her team has a lot to improve upon, especially on offense and finding consistency, she is not without hope going forward.
ASU will return most of its impact players, with forward Bre'yanna Sanders being the only senior on the team, while also adding a new freshman class for the 2021-22 season.
Turner Thorne said she was excited for the new recruits to enter the program and that her players gained valuable experience this season, including a "taste" of postseason basketball in the WNIT.
"They got a lot to look at, so that's good," Turner Thorne said.
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