LAS VEGAS (AP) — Charli Turner Thorne was happy to get the opening game jitters out of the way.
Courtney Ekmark scored 18 points and No. 20 Arizona State used a run at the start of the fourth quarter to pull away from Colorado and win 66-49 on Thursday in the opening round of the Pac-12 Tournament.
“I told our team in the locker room, sometimes it’s not the worst thing to have the play-in game,” Turner Thorne said. “The first game is the hardest. … The pressure and excitement of the moment can get to you.”
Ekmark hit six 3-pointers for the Sun Devils (20-9), who will play UCLA on Friday in the quarterfinals.
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“I think it was really good to have the game today, the first game, because it’s kind of like we had some pregame jitters,” Ekmark said. “We did start off strong, but did let them back in it and let them get on a run. In the future we’re going to make sure we really put teams away.”
Fifth-seeded Arizona State led by 12 at the half, but 12-seed Colorado (12-18) rallied to within a point in the third quarter after scoring the first seven points of the period. Charnea Johnson-Chapman’s putback before the buzzer gave the Sun Devils some momentum heading into the final period. Ekmark hit a 3-pointer to begin an 11-2 burst that restored the double-digit advantage.
Kiara Russell and Sophia Elenga had back-to-back 3-point plays that gave Arizona State a 54-42 lead with 5:42 left.
“I think one of the knocks on us at times is that we’ll take our foot off the gas,” Turner Thorne said. “They took their foot off the gas. You can’t do that in March. You can’t do that in our conference. We already know that. It was a great teachable moment and reminder to us. You’ve got to be 40 minutes and all out.”
The Buffaloes could get no closer than 10 the rest of the way.
“The fourth quarter saw a reversal on both ends of the floor,” Colorado coach JR Payne said. “In the fourth quarter, fatigue set in a little bit.”
Alexis Robinson scored 19 points to lead Colorado. The senior was emotional after the game as she put on a Colorado uniform for the final time.
“She’s definitely been really big in my life,” said Robinson fighting back tears, about her coach JR Payne.
It was easy to see that it was going to be Arizona State’s day. Before the game, the Arizona State mascot, Sparky, hit a halfcourt shot over its head looking at the other basket, much to the delight of the hundreds of school kids in attendance.
In other opening round games on Thursday, Arizona routed Southern California 76-48; California beat Washington State 77-58 and Washington upset Utah 64-54.
Follow Doug Feinberg on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dougfeinberg