The regular season for the Arizona State women’s basketball team (13-17, 5-13 Pacific-12) ended with a 67-60 loss to USC (10-19, 7-11) Sunday at Wells Fargo Arena that locked the Sun Devils into the ninth seed in the upcoming conference tournament.
It was also the Senior Day for Janae Fulcher, who had a double-double with 17 points and a personal-best 13 rebounds, and Micaela Pickens, who scored eight and equaled her career high with nine rebounds.
“I really have a true family here,” Fulcher said. “I’m going to miss the fans here. It’s been a very long journey, I’ve been here for five years, and I was very fortunate to be with the team that went to the Elite Eight, which was an amazing experience. My role has changed every year. I was so blessed to have the role I have this year – as a leader - and I wouldn’t want it to be any different. I am so grateful for this team, they’re young, and I think they’re going to do great things next year.”
The Trojans pounced on an early 13-6 lead, which swelled to 13 points with a balanced attack. Fulcher scored 10 and grabbed five in the first half, and her free throw with a half second remaining cut the lead to 34-23.
USC remained consistent in the early second, but the Sun Devils began quietly chipping at the lead. Promise Amukamara (10 points) put up a floater while the shot clock expired with just under 13 minutes remaining to make it 39-33. The teams went back and forth in a six-point game for several minutes until Joy Burke pulled it to 43-39 with eight minutes left. Cassie Harberts and Alexyz Vaioletama converted back-to-back baskets on a steal to put USC back up eight. Amukamara picked one off and converted the layup to put ASU within five with under three to go.
Pickens hit a three with 30 seconds left, then threw one up from her back 10 seconds later that resulted in a traditional three-point play. Arnecia Hawkins missed two three pointers on the next possession before USC wrapped it up from the line, and ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne took out the two seniors with three seconds left.
“I really appreciate this program,” Pickens said. “They’ve taught me a lot about life in general, and I’ve enjoyed the girls so much here. I see a bright future. Once a Sun Devil, always a Sun Devil, I’ll be back to watch them.”
Harberts, averaging 18 and eight going into Sunday, scored 12 and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Women of the Troy, while senior Christina Marinacci tied Oliver for the team lead with 13 points. Kiki Alofaituli added 11, as well.
Adrianne Thomas also scored eight for ASU, and Elisha Davis tied her with the game-high of four assists.
“This team was fired up, they wanted to send the seniors out well,” Turner Thorne said. “I think maybe we were trying too hard. I wanted to say thank you to all of the fans for their continued support; we did not meet our standards at all as a women’s basketball program.”
The Sun Devils were 2-for-21 from beyond the arc in the game, while USC was 4-for-8 in the first half and missed all four attempts in the second.
Fulcher, at 6-foot-3 from La Jolla, Calif., averaged 11 points and 4.5 rebounds this season and collected a career-high 26 points Nov. 25 versus Florida. She mentioned after the game that she would like to be involved in broadcasting and media relations.
Pickens, from Long Beach, Calif., and a transfer from Cypress College, averaged 6.5 points and 3.1 rebounds and dropped a personal-best 15 at Providence Dec. 7. She said she wants to be a children’s counselor, but is going into a coaching program that may result in a career opportunity.
Thursday, the Pacific-12 tournament begins in Seattle, with ASU holding the nine seed and a date with Washington State, who defeated them twice this season. Seventh-seeded USC will play Oregon State.
UCLA defeated Arizona, 68-57 Sunday in Tucson, with Davellyn Whyte scoring 16, grabbing nine and dishing seven for the Wildcats in her final game at the McKale Center. Alyssia Brewer (22) and Nirra Fields (21) led the Bruins. Arizona will be seeded 11th and will take on sixth-seeded Utah.