"Obviously, this game is a huge game. We knew it was going to be a great one," ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne said. "I'm really proud of our team; we definitely kept the poise in the second half. I've gotta give credit to UA though. It's a great rivalry and we were happy to get out of here with a win."
The Sun Devils (12-6, 4-3 Pac-10) took a six point lead midway through the first half, but UA rattled off a 18-4 run that was capped by a layup by junior forward Ify Ibekwe that gave the Wildcats a 33-25 lead with 2:23 to play in the half.
ASU answered with a pair of three's by junior guard Tenaya Watson to cut the lead to 33-31, but UA freshman guard Davellyn Whyte ended the half with a pair of free throws to give the Wildcats a four point lead at the break.
The second half belonged to the Sun Devils. Junior forward Becca Tobin's layup with 17:52 to play gave ASU the lead back at 38-37. UA would not lead again.
After the game was tied at 44-44, ASU went on an 11-0 run to take a 55-44 lead with 11:41 to play. The decisive run was sparked by senior guard Danielle Orsillo, who scored seven of the eleven points.
The Wildcats (9-8, 3-4) kept hanging around and chipping away at the lead and eventually got it down to 63-60 with 2:40 remaining. Sophomore forward Kimberly Brandon made a big layup for ASU on the other end to stretch it to a five point game, but Whyte answered for UA to make it 66-63 with 1:00 to play.
ASU needed to ice the game from the free throw line, something they have struggled with this season. On Sunday, it was no problem. Senior forward Kayli Murphy, Tobin and Watson combined to go 8-8 from the stripe in the final minute to seal the victory.
"We were in this position before, with being up by ten against USC and losing," Orsillo said. "I just got really excited when we started hitting our free throws late in the game, and it was obvious that we were going to win."
"We are a very young team and we still have a lot of growing to do. This game really helps our progress."
Another step in the right direction was ASU's dominance on the glass. The Sun Devils outrebounded the Wildcats 48-36.
"The key to the game was to keep on the rebounds," Tobin said. "We knew we had to control the boards to win."
For Arizona coach Nyia Butts, being out rebounded was disappointing to see and is becoming a common theme for her team.
"Obviously, it's a very disappointing loss," Butts said. "I certainly think it has to do with a lack of rebounding on our part. We've been harping on rebounding all year."
"It's something I come into the press conference talking about, even in victories, that we didn't do a really good job rebounding the basketball. That seems to be what teams are trying to expose."
Tobin led the Sun Devils with 19 points and nine rebounds with 15 of her points coming in the second half. Orsillo added 16 points; Watson had 14 points with four steals and Murphy chipped in nine points and 11 rebounds.
"Our younger players are coming along. I think Watson did a good job," Turner Thorne said. "She's still a first year player and has a lot of responsibilities. It was a great team win."
The Wildcats were led by Ibekwe, who finished with 25 points and 16 rebounds and Whyte added 22 points.
ASU will take their four game winning streak into its toughest test of the season on Thursday. The Sun Devils will head to Maples Pavilion to take on 2nd ranked Stanford. Tipoff is set for 8PM Arizona time.