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Women's basketball defeats rival UA in emotional overtime contest

Junior guard Taya Hanson hit a crucial three-pointer to secure the victory

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ASU now-junior guard/forward Iris Mbulito (23) drives to the basket against UA on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020, at McKale Center in Tucson. ASU lost 59-53.

The ASU women's basketball team ended its regular season in thrilling fashion, as it defeated in-state rival No. 9 UA 66-64 in overtime on Sunday afternoon in Tempe.

With the game tied at 62 with 56 seconds left in overtime, ASU junior guard Taya Hanson nailed a pivotal three-pointer to give ASU a 65-62 lead. The Wildcats missed a three-pointer at the buzzer, helping to cement the Sun Devils' upset victory.

Hanson, who finished the game with a team-high 19 points and five of seven from beyond the arc, called the clutch three-pointer, "probably the biggest shot in my career so far."

ASU head coach Charli Turner Thorne emphasized how important winning this rivalry game was to her and her team, especially considering the up and down nature of the season.

"This is kind of a championship with it within itself," Turner Thorne said. "For what we've been through and where they're at, to beat them, I mean this is up there in all-time fun wins, especially in the U of A series. I'm going to enjoy it till next year, all offseason."

After getting blown out by the Wildcats, in Tucson on Dec. 10, the Sun Devils looked like a completely different squad on Sunday. 

Turner Thorne knew the December matchup between the two schools wasn't representative of who her team was at its best.

"That game was so bad," Turner Thorne said. "We were just young and it was early, so I knew today would be better since they would know what to expect in terms of physicality and the pressure."

Freshman guard Jaddan Simmons had a cold shooting game, making just four of her 13 shots, but was critical in the victory as she scored eight of the team's 11 points in the overtime period.

Hanson says Simmons is the player that the whole team trusts with the ball in a close game situation.

"She is the most consistent player ever and her poise is something that our team needs," Hanson said. "She's awesome with leading, just bringing that for us. She can make those big-time plays, and we trust her. And she always steps up and makes that happen for us."

Sunday was senior day for ASU's lone senior Bre'yanna Sanders, who finished eight points, including a pair of three-pointers in her final game at Desert Financial Arena. Sanders, who has not always been in the rotation during her time at the school, noted how much she enjoyed her time as a Sun Devil.

"I think just staying with things, you know, and just really having a love for this team whether I'm on the court or off the court, because everybody contributes, no matter how many minutes you play," Sanders said. "So, yeah, just really staying with things and really loving this team, which is really special."

The Sun Devils will now practice this week before heading to Las Vegas, Nevada, for the Pac-12 Women's Basketball Tournament, which begins on Wednesday, March 3. 

"March is a whole new season. And it is how you're defined, you know, by your postseason, by how well you do," Turner Thorne said. "I'm going to educate them about that tomorrow we're going to talk about it, and then we're going to do everything we can to finish the strongest we can."

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