For 25 minutes, Arizona State stayed with the fifth-ranked women’s basketball team in the nation. In a 5 1 /2-minute span, the Sun Devils saw their 26-game home win streak end with an 83-74 defeat to Tennessee Sunday at Wells Fargo Arena.
The good news for No. 11 ASU is that it was only the fifth game of the season, plenty of time to improve.
“All the things that we didn’t do today, I feel like we are going to do,” Sun Devils coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “I didn’t see Tennessee expose us in the sense that, ‘Oh my gosh, this is going to be a long year,’ not at all. I think the things we didn’t do, we didn’t do because it’s early.”
What ASU (4-1) didn’t do was stop the Volunteers on a couple of key spurts in the second half before making the final score respectable.
All-American Candace Parker scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in 30 minutes for the Volunteers, who improved to 3-0.
“I think they are a veteran team that did a good job of taking advantage of our possessions that we took off,” ASU forward Emily Westerberg said.
Westerberg (21 points, six rebounds) helped the Sun Devils stay close in the first half and within four early in the second half. But a 15-3 run put the Volunteers ahead by 14. It was during that run that Westerberg picked up her fourth foul and had to sit.
Tennessee then ran off 10 straight points to take a 77-55 lead and coasted.
“Little things that we have been on our team about, little things bit us in the butt,” Turner Thorne said. “If we missed something, they made us pay.”
But the Sun Devils were upbeat about the experience.
“I think playing a team of that caliber this early just is going to help us for the rest of the season because we are just going to keep elevating our game and getting better as a team,” said Aubree Johnson, who drew the assignment against Parker.
Sidney Spencer had 18 points, hitting 8 of 14 from the field, and Alexis Hornbuckle added 13 points and five assists for another strong Volunteer squad that had been in three consecutive Final Fours before losing in a regional final last season.
“Well, our defense ignited our offense,” Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. “We got more aggressive on the boards and got in a great rhythm. That (15-3) run, I thought, was the difference.”
Reagan Pariseau scored 15 points while Briann January added 14 points and six assists for ASU, which had won its first four games by an average of 31.5 points.