After 40 minutes of back-and-forth basketball between two nationally-ranked teams, No. 24 Arizona State (11-1) was left standing over No. 20 Syracuse (11-2), 63-60, Monday night in Tempe.
It was the Sun Devils’ 10th straight win and second in a row that saw an ACC team come into Wells Fargo Arena and miss a game-winning-or-tying three at the buzzer, following Dec. 21’s 75-73 win over Miami.
Syracuse sophomore guard Brianna Butler scored 20 points in the first half on 8-of-14 shooting and recorded 13 consecutive for the Orange, but was held to five in the second and concluded four off her personal best. Meanwhile, Brittney Sykes, who is second in the ACC at 19.8 points per game, was held to a season-low 13.
“I was disappointed with how well she played in the first half,” ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne said of Butler. “She was going to hit some tough shots, but we gave her too many easy looks. I think we wore them down.”
Turner Thorne praised her depth, as the bench of ASU outscored the Orange’s by 13, and three Sun Devils went into double rebounding figures: freshman Kelsey Moos (12), freshman Sophie Brunner (11) and senior Joy Burke (10).
The Sun Devils opened with an Elisha Davis three, led the first 13 minutes and had an advantage as high as 15-9 following a Katie Hempen three, before a Butler three gave the Orange a 26-24 lead.
Hempen swung the lead back to the Sun Devils, 27-26, with another trey. Sykes tied it at the line, and after Brunner scored for ASU, Cornelia Fondren gave the Orange a 30-29 lead.
Butler put Syracuse up eight with a minute and a half remaining, but ASU grabbed some momentum going into halftime with the final four points, sparked with a Promise Amukamara steal and field goal.
“We give Promise Amukamara so much credit,” said Burke, who also scored 14. “She (Butler) went off in the first half, and we knew we had to key in on her, and Promise did a great job.”
ASU clawed back in the early second half to knot it at 43-43, only to be answered by Butler’s third and final three of the night. The Sun Devils stayed with the Orange, pounding it in the paint to Adrianne Thomas and Burke.
Deja Mann found Moos all alone in the post for two of her team-high 15 points, with 5:45 left to give ASU its first lead since it was 29-27 at 55-54. Syracuse answered right back, and Moos connected on two from the line.
“We really stayed together,” Moos said. “We came out of halfime and stayed together as a team.”
After Sykes gave Syracuse a 58-57 lead, Burke scored to give ASU a 59-58 lead with four minutes left. It would be two minutes later that Sykes would execute a finger roll in traffic, and Moos hooked in the 61-60 lead at 1:30. A foul down low put Syracuse’s 6-foot-4 freshman center Briana Day at line, where she missed both, although she did equal her career high with 12 rebounds. Mann, the Sun Devils leading scorer, was trapped into a shot clock violation on the next possession. After a timeout, Sykes was called for the offensive foul with 8.7 ticks, and Thomas drained two from the line, a spot where she has spent twice as much time as any of her teammates this season. Point guard Rachel Coffey was short with the game’s final play, ending an evening that was a gem of entertainment.
“These situations we practice and practice every day,” Burke said, “so when we’re in a game, we’re ready for it. That’s what we prepare for. It was a complete team win.”
Turner Thorne also mentioned that Thomas sprained her ankle in practice last week and was vital in the win with seven points after watching her team prepare on an exercise bike.
This was the second-ever meeting between the two, with ASU winning by five in 1996 at Puerto Rico.
ASU now enters Pacific-12 play with a road trip to Washington State on Friday and Washington Jan. 5. It returns home against USC at 6 p.m. Jan. 10. Syracuse plays it inaugural ACC game Jan. 5 at North Carolina State, and we’ll really see if it’s for real when No. 3 Duke comes to the Carrier Dome Jan. 9.
“We set goals for ourselves, and we’re ready for the challenge,” Moos said.