Lia Galdeira scored 13 of her 17 in the second half, as the Washington State Cougars put an end to the Arizona State women’s basketball team’s season, 48-41, in the first round of the Pacific-12 tournament Thursday in Seattle.
Senior forward Janae Fulcher scored a game-high 20 points in her final game as a Sun Devil, while 5-foot-8 sophomore Promise Amukamara grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds, more than twice as many as senior Micaela Pickens who had the game’s next-highest total of six to go with her six points.
“We had offensive struggles all year long, and we just had to play 40 minutes of defense and rebounding,” ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “It’s disappointing, but just lessons learned for a very young team on our end, and we’ll come back next year at full strength. Janae’s done a great job for us all year, but consistently, we hadn’t had anybody score for us.”
The Sun Devils (13-18) doubled up on the Cougars (11-19) in the first half, 16-8, and held them under single digits until freshman Mariah Cooks scored with 1:30 left. Galdeira recorded her second field goal (2-for-7) towards the end of the first half, and ASU led 18-13 at the break.
“We told them at halftime, ‘We’re playing great defense, and the toughest team’s going to win this game,’” WSU assistant coach Mike Daugherty said.
Daugherty was filling in for his wife, June, the head coach for WSU who was taken to the hospital with appendicitis. He stated she was doing fine.
In the second half, Galdeira hit a three to pull within one, 21-20, only to be answered by Pickens. Dawnyelle Awa, who had 10 points Thursday, then scored for WSU, as the teams traded baskets.
Galdeira finally gave WSU the lead with a three, 27-25, with just under four minutes played, giving the Cougars more points in that short period of time than the entire first session.
Elisha Davis tied it for the Sun Devils at 27-27, only to be upstaged with a jumper from Sage Romberg, a turnover, and another Cougar field goal. It wouldn’t be long before Cooks put WSU up 10, 39-29, with under nine minutes, and ASU didn’t come within seven again until Arnecia Hawkins converted a traditional three-point play on the game’s final possession.
Eleven of Amukamara’s rebounds came on the defensive end, and she also swiped three steals for the Sun Devils, the same amount as Galdeira. Previously, her career-high was nine rebounds set a month ago.
“She’d trade them all in for a W,” Turner Thorne said of Amukamara’s rebounding. “She’s had a great season. It’s been a disappointing season for us in terms of wins and losses, but Promise has been a bright spot both offensively and defensively, and we’re very excited about her next two years.”
The Sun Devils were a dismal 0-for-11 from long range, but outscored the Cougars, 8-1, on second-chance points.
Now, the Cougars will have the monumental task of facing top-seeded Stanford (28-2) in the quarterfinals at 6 p.m. PT Friday.
“It doesn’t matter who the best team is, it matters who the best team is on that day,” Daugherty said. “We’re excited to play, we have a game plan, and hopefully, it’s better than the game plan we had when we played them last week (lost 72-50). The thing with Stanford is, you have to make shots, you’re not going to stop them, they’re too talented, every time June and I have beaten them , we’ve outscored them.”
Washington State’s lone NCAA tourney appearance came in 1991, while ASU has been there 11 times, most recently two years ago, losing to Temple.
Last season, as a No. 11 seed, WSU won its first two games in the Pac-12 tournament ever, upsetting No. 6 Oregon State and No. 3 USC, before falling to California in the semifinals. ASU fell in the other semifinal to Stanford, 52-43.
The No. 8 seed for WSU equaled its best ever finish in the league with 2009 and 2011, while the No. 9 was ASU’s lowest since the competition’s inception in 2002. This was the first ever meeting between the two in the tournament.
“This was fun,” Galdeira said. “I remember watching this when I was a little kid, and now I’m here, it’s cool.”