A season that began as the No. 10-ranked team in the Pacific-12’s preseason poll and climaxed with the No. 11 ranking in the country in early February, came to an end with an 84-67 loss to No. 1 Notre Dame Monday for the Arizona State women’s basketball team.
With the NCAA second round win in Toledo, Ohio, the undefeated Irish (34-0) advanced to the Sweet 16 Saturday, which will be on their home court in South Bend, Ind., versus fifth-seeded Oklahoma State.
After shooting a season-high 62 percent in the first round win over Vanderbilt, the ninth-seeded Sun Devils (23-10) missed their first six shots before Arnecia Hawkins scored five minutes after tipoff. A Natalie Achonwa offensive foul put the ball back in ASU’s hands, and Deja Mann cut the lead to 8-7.
Adrianne Thomas put the Sun Devils up 13-12 with a traditional three-point play, and Kelsey Moos made it 15-12, part of a 13-4 run. Muffet McGraw called a timeout, and that meant the end of the upset bid, as Achonwa and Madison Cable quickly scored to hand the lead back to the Irish. In the final minute of the half, Mann drained a three to chip the lead to 29-26, but she was only answered with one from Michaela Mabrey on the other end, as Notre Dame went up six at halftime and never stumbled in the second period.
Fittingly, seniors Mann and Thomas led ASU in scoring in their final games, with 16 and 14 points a piece. The other senior, Joy Burke- the Tempe native who had a smile on her face every second of her career, added seven. Freshman forward Sophie Brunner grabbed 10 rebounds.
Achonwa scored 25 and grabbed 11 for Notre Dame, Kayla McBride had 22 points and nine assists, and Jewell Loyd collected 19 points and seven rebounds.
The upset bid from ASU would have rivaled Harvard’s 1998 win over Stanford and Louisville’s taking down of Brittney Griner and Baylor last year as the largest in women’s NCAA basketball lore, but it was not to be.
Still, a season that featured nine wins by four points or less, plus three overtime wins, including one at the expense of highly-ranked North Carolina, and the program’s first NCAA tourney win in five years, will go down as a success. Pretty good for being considered 10th-best in the conference in November.