The irony was hard to miss.
A season ago, Kentucky went to Tempe, rallied from a double-digit deficit and upset Arizona State in overtime.
The Sun Devils joyfully returned the favor at Rupp Arena on Sunday, bouncing back from a poor first half to top the No. 15 Cats 73-71 in overtime.
“They just stole it from us,” Coach Charli Turner Thorne recalled of last season’s upset at her place. “I feel like obviously the tables were turned last year and we did the same thing to some degree. That was kind of fun, not going to lie.”
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Her “fun” came courtesy of an off-balance shot by Sophie Brunner that put Arizona State ahead for good with six seconds to play and the shot clock nearing zero.
“I was just trying to get a shot off before time ran out and give us an opportunity for my teammates to rebound it if it didn’t go in,” said Brunner, who had 18 points, six rebounds and six assists in the win. “Honestly, I just threw it up there and it went in.”
Her coach thought the senior forward, who scored 16 of her 18 points after the break, was being a little modest.
“That young lady has hit more end-of-the-game shots herself in her career than probably all of my other players I’ve coached in 20 years at ASU combined,” Turner Thorne said. “There’s no one else that I’d rather have the ball in her hands.”
Kentucky had 5.5 seconds to counter and get the ball in their most clutch player’s hands, but Arizona State was able to disrupt the UK play, and Makayla Epps’ contested shot came up short.
“They did a great job,” UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said of the Devils’ defense on that last possession. “I put Makayla in a bad position. That was a terrible call by myself.”
The Kentucky coach also was shouldering much of the blame for the Cats being in that position. Behind a huge start from sophomore Maci Morris, UK grabbed a nine-point lead in the second quarter.
Even though Epps didn’t have a point and attempted just one shot in the first half, Kentucky led the Sun Devils 31-24 at the break.
Then things went south for Kentucky.
“I did a poor job at halftime of getting our group ready to go,” Mitchell said. “It really hurt us at the start of the second half. We had a seven-point lead; we gave it all up.”
Arizona State made early adjustments, specifically going to high-low sets and getting easy shots against UK’s interior defense.
“We adjusted incredibly well,” Thorne said. “It’s kind of what we wanted to do for 40 minutes, but we did it for 25.”
Things changed quickly in the second half as the Devils used an 18-7 run to briefly take the lead, 40-38, on a shot by forward Quinn Dornstauder, who had nine of her 15 points in the second half.
Epps answered with her first points of the game a few seconds later to start a 10-0 UK run. The senior finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.
The Cats’ defense held the Sun Devils (6-2) without a point for more than five minutes and without a field goal for nearly six minutes during that run, but UK didn’t capitalize much, leading just 48-44 going into the fourth quarter.
Arizona State opened the fourth quarter with a 10-4 flurry, holding the Cats (7-3) without a point for 4:32 and without a field goal for a minute more than that.
“We just stopped playing defense at the end,” Mitchell said. “They got the ball inside at will and scored at will. Really disappointed in that.”
The Sun Devils, who won their fourth straight, went up 59-56 with two minutes to go on free throws before Makenzie Cann’s long three tied it 59-59 just seconds later.
Kentucky had a chance to win it in the final seconds of regulation, but all UK could get was a Cann three that rimmed out. And then, for the second consecutive Sunday, UK lost in overtime. Last weekend it was at No. 8 Louisville.
The Cats got an offensive bump from Morris, who had a career-best 29 points, 10 more than her previous high.
“She was so, so aggressive early in the game,” said Mitchell of Morris, who had 16 points and three assists in 16 minutes in the first half. “I thought she was tremendously focused on attacking the rim.”
Does that give Morris some confidence in her shot going forward?
“A little bit,” she said, “but I’d rather have won than scored 29 points.”
Radford at No. 15 Kentucky
2 p.m. Sunday