ASU women hopes to bounce back with strong showing in Pac-12 Tournament

Mar 5, 2020, 7:14 AM

TEMPE, Ariz. – After a Senior Day loss to Stanford, Arizona State guard Robbi Ryan and forward Jamie Ruden started to reminisce at Desert Financial Arena.

It was an emotional afternoon as Ryan and Ruden – along with fellow seniors Reili Richardson, Kiara Russell and Ja’Tavia Tapley – were recognized afterward with video tributes. But the reminiscing was brief following ASU’s disappointing loss to the fourth-ranked Cardinal, as the No. 24 Sun Devils quickly shifted their mindsets toward March Madness.

“We celebrated our seniors tonight, but we are not done,” Ryan said. “We still have a lot of season left, and we are just going to work hard.”

Ruden echoed that.

“Like she said, we have more basketball left,” Ruden said. “I want to empty out for my seniors and continue to impact this team.”

ASU (20-10 overall, 10-8 Pac-12) moves to the Pac-12 Tournament as a No. 5 seed to play No. 12 seed California (11-18, 3-15) on Thursday afternoon at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.

The Sun Devils recently beat California, 77-54, in Tempe, but anything can happen in the Pac-12 conference.

In the regular season finale, California upset No. 13 Arizona (23-6, 12-6). The ASU-Cal winner faces the Wildcats, seeded No. 4, on Friday. Arizona beat ASU twice this season, in Tucson and in Tempe.

After the knee injury Russell suffered Sunday midway through the Stanford game, the starting guard’s status for the Pac-12 Tournament was in doubt. When ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne spoke after the game, she wasn’t very hopeful that Russell would be back at all this season.

It will be a day-to-day prognosis for Russell after the scare, though, as Turner Thorne announced on Tuesday’s Pac-12 Tournament conference call that Russell didn’t tear the ACL in her left knee as feared.

“We were praying and hoping for a small miracle,” Turner Thorne said. “We were in our team meeting, talking about adjusting without her, and she comes in and goes, ‘Woo, woo.’ It turns out it was a bone bruise and ligaments are stretched but not torn.

“It is just incredible, incredible news,” said Turner Thorne, adding she expects Russell to make a full return for the NCAA Tournament, which begins March 20.

Turner Thorne noted that ASU has been without Russell some games this season, including when the Sun Devils upset then-No. 2 Oregon at Desert Financial Arena.

“Our hearts just go out to her,” Ruden said. “That is our sister. When she is hurting … everyone else, we feel it too, so we really have to take this to motivate us.

“We just have to play for her no matter what and come together for the rest of the basketball that we have left.”

Turner Thorne is happy with the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas.

“I love that it is in Vegas,” Turner Thorne said. “For our fans, it is close enough for them to come and drive. It is just a neutral site, and the (Las Vegas) Aces have done a great job and the whole atmosphere (is exciting).”

Although Turner Thorne hopes her team leaves Vegas as Pac-12 champions, she said she mostly wants ASU to play its best and consistent basketball, offensively and defensively. Turner Thorne also is ready for the March journey to start, especially with five seniors on the roster.

“I am excited to go to battle with this team in March in the postseason,” Turner Thorne said. “… We are going to get back to work and get ready for March Madness.”

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