ASU gets defining win over Stanford

STANFORD, Calif -- The celebration was actually a little subdued, all things considered.

When Amber Orrange's desperation heave fell short, the final buzzer sounded and Arizona State had pulled off what is a holy grail moment in the Pac-12 -- beating Stanford 60-57 on its home floor. There was some hugging and a little jumping, but after a brief huddle, the Sun Devils quickly jogged off the floor.

And maybe that tells everybody what they need to know about Arizona State this season. Beating the Cardinal at Maples Pavilion is nice -- make no mistake, it's really, really, really nice -- and a little historic, considering that it was the Sun Devils' first win in this gym since 1984.

But it is not the end game.

Still, for ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne -- who has been toiling and searching for a win at Maples for all of the 18 years that she has been in Tempe -- this was pretty damn big. Because the last time ASU beat Stanford, she was here. On the floor as a scrappy Cardinal guard with a mean feathered haircut.

"'Bout time," Turner Thorne said as she sat down in the postgame news conference. "It feels really, really good. Anytime in your life when there's something that eludes you ... I'm just excited that it's checked off the list.

"But mostly, I'm just happy for this team."

Before Monday's's game, Turner Thorne told her team more than three decades had passed since ASU won at Stanford.

"I wanted to mention it because this team responds so well to a challenge," she said, "and I thought it might get talked about."

Turner Thorne has always operated with something of a chip on her shoulder, and it's tough to begrudge her that considering that she has led the Sun Devils to nine NCAA tournament appearances and two trips to the Elite Eight. She ranks second behind Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer in career wins in the Pac-12 with 341. And yet her program always seems to be living in somebody's shadow, whether it's perennial champ Stanford or new power Cal or even a newer power such as Oregon State.

Coming off of a 23-10 finish a year ago, her team was picked seventh in the preseason coaches' poll and sixth by the media.

"Just keep picking us there," Turner Thorne said. "That's all I'm going to say."

But this team is perhaps the best she has ever coached, and certainly the best since a 2009 team that went to the Elite Eight for the second time in three seasons. That team went 26-9 and had a school-record 15-game win streak.

Turner Thorne wondered aloud if the sabbatical she took in 2011-2012 -- and the ninth-place finish the Sun Devils experienced upon her return -- hurt the regard for her program.

"If I'm being brutally honest, ever since I took my sabbatical and came back and we didn't have the roster we've had, everybody wants us to be there," Turner Thorne said. "They want us so bad to not be where we've been, and we're not. It took us one year and we are back."

"We know we are among the top teams in our conference. Our defense is going to win us a lot of games." ASU senior Promise Amukamara

But she and her players aren't focused on what others think of them.

"We pride ourselves on a very humble spirit," Turner Thorne said. "And we don't need a number by our name. We are going to earn everything we get."

Beating Stanford at Maples will certainly turn heads.

Arizona State took more than a game, it took first place in the Pac-12 standings -- the Sun Devils and Oregon State are both 6-0 -- from a team that hasn't spent very many days looking up at very many people in this conference in the last decade and a half. The Sun Devils are 17-1 and off to the best start in school history.

Stanford did not go quietly. Arizona State dominated the boards (particularly on the offensive end), beat Stanford on the dribble-drive and in transition and carved out a 17-point halftime lead, 39-22.

But the Cardinal immediately went to work filling in the hole, forced turnovers, found ways to score and eventually pulled within 47-46 with 4:59 to go.

ASU withstood the charge with a 6-0 run that pushed the lead back to 55-48 with 46 seconds left, and the Sun Devils' good defense on Stanford's in-bounds play with 2.6 seconds to go forced the ball deep in the Sun Devils' end to Orrange, who could not get off a good shot for the win.

The Sun Devils finished the game with a 44-22 rebounding advantage, a 20-5 advantage on the offensive boards and outscored Stanford 18-2 in second-chance points.

Promise Amukamara, the speedy senior guard who is having a breakout season, finished with a game-high 17 points. Guard Elisha Davis added 10, including a huge layup to put ASU up by seven with 46 seconds to go.

And when the final buzzer sounded, and the Sun Devils had a defining win in a potentially defining season, they moved briskly on to what's next.

"We know we are among the top teams in our conference," Amukamara said. "Our defense is going to win us a lot of games."

Added Turner Thorne: "This team knows it's good and they expect to win."

Perhaps everyone else should expect it as well.