Arizona State women’s basketball once again scored a big victory in the final seconds on a massive defensive save and staying effective at the free throw line.
As close as the closing seconds were on Friday at Desert Financial Arena, the cheers of jubilation and fans rushing onto the court after the 81-77 win over No. 6 Arizona let it sink for ASU .
Last week it was sophomore forward Katelyn Levings who played the heroic role on defense, positioning herself inside on a missed free throw and fouling to earn a trip to the line and a upset against Oregon. This time around, senior forward Jayde Van Hyfte took the lead from UA guard Shaina Pellington with 17.2 seconds left as Pellington raced to find the lead with a 78-77 deficit. Forward Mael Gilles took the decisive shots, finishing a perfect performance at the line with all 10 attempts made.
“I’m always making up my mind. Honestly, we knew from the start that the (officials) were calling things and it wasn’t going in our favor, but we have huge respect for the referees. It’s a hard game to ref. Just a battle against physical rivals and teams, but we knew no matter what was called, no matter what happened in the game, we had to stick together and keep fighting. I felt from each of my teammates that we were taking this game,” said senior guard Taya Hanson.
Gilles, along with guards Jade Loville and Taya Hanson took control of the game for the Sun Devils by combining for 65 points. Loville finished with a team-high 27 points, while Hanson and Gilles assisted with 19 points each.
Knowing the team’s potential, the effort from the three was something ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne had hoped for all season.
“We just knew our attack was coming. Our defense improved and we won games and won games, but we were so due. When (Loville) starts well, it’s hard to keep. When we can have two more people with our defense, we can beat anybody in the country,” Turner Thorne said.
Arizona State (12-8, 4-3 Pac-12) produced its best all-around effort of the season in the first half, attacking the boards and shooting 50 percent. ASU choked the ball, bouncing 23 times against Arizona’s 10.
“We just knew we had to come out with a punch and make a statement on the pitch because it’s our home pitch and we definitely take it personally,” Gilles said.
ASU maintained dominance on the boards in the second half, capping the night with 42 rebounds to Arizona’s 27. Gilles led with 10 rebounds and Loville had a season-high eight rebounds.
“Anytime she gets double-digit rebounds, we usually have a good rebounding game. She really sets the tone for us,” Turner Thorne said.
While Arizona (17-4, 7-4 Pac-12) kept a close distance in the first quarter thanks in part to its eight points on 11 free throw attempts and seven field goals, Arizona had struggling to shoot in the second quarter. The Wildcats have scored just one field goal in their last seven attempts, while ASU has scored six for 11 from the floor.
ASU used long-range shooting if necessary in the first half, making all three attempts from 3 in the second quarter and shooting 83.3 percent from 3 for the entire first half. Arizona was limited in 3-point opportunities and scored its first 3-pointer at 3:55 in the third quarter by forward Sam Thomas. Arizona started its shot late in the fourth quarter after hitting four of its five field goals to take its first game lead since the first quarter.
Free throw shooting became key to the streak for ASU after a technical foul on Arizona guard Helena Pueyo at 3:17 gave ASU four points on Gilles’ free throws. and Hanson to extend the one-point lead. Both teams made the most of trips to the line as ASU had 31 points on 34 free throw attempts. Arizona had 35 attempts and made 23 free throws.
Pellington posted another big game for Arizona, leading with 30 points and recording five assists. Cate Reese followed with 18 points and nine rebounds, while Thomas added 14 points.
ASU will now enter its toughest part of the season with four road games over the next eight days, starting with Sunday’s noon game in Tucson against Arizona.
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