DENVER, Colo. (ASU) — Trailing by 17 early in the second half, the Arkansas State Red Wolves (8-13, 2-6) rallied to take a 57-56 lead with 3:27 remaining in the game, but a late run by Denver (14-8, 6-2) gave the Pioneers a 73-61 victory Wednesday night in Sun Belt Conference women's basketball at Magness Arena.
The Red Wolves were led by sophomore Jane Morrill's 25 points, but Denver countered with 33 points from senior Kaetlyn Murdoch, who hit 13-of-14 shots from the field. Junior Ashley Olvera also finished in double-figures for ASU with 10 points.
"A loss is a loss, but you can certainly leave here feeling better about things," said ASU head coach Brian Boyer. "The second half was much, much better offensively and we had stretches that were good on the defensive end. The players kept chipping away, and then we had one big stretch where we had five or six stops on defense."
"Our offense in the second half was probably as sharp as it has been all year," Boyer added. "Everybody was touching the ball, everybody was cutting hard and moving and we were scoring. But in the end, Murdoch was too much, and you can't put them at the line – they just don't miss."
Arkansas State trailed 35-21 at the half, with Morrill leading the way with nine points. The Red Wolves led 10-9 after sophomore Lunden Roberts sank a pair of free throws with 11:03 remaining before intermission, but Denver used a 14-4 run over the next seven minutes to go up 23-14, then carried the 14-point advantage into the locker room at the break.
Denver built its lead to 17 early in the second half before the Red Wolves began to make a move. Arkansas State cut the Denver advantage to 10 on a steal and layup from Olvera that made it 50-40 with just over 11 minutes to play. Back-to-back three pointers from Roberts, the second with 8:51 remining, sliced the Denver lead to four at 50-46, and the Red Wolves inched within a basket when junior Quinishia McDowell sank two from the line with 5:49 to play to make it 52-50.
A three-point play from Olvera with 5:25 to go made it a one-point game at 54-53, and ASU took its first lead of the second half when Morrill scored with 4:30 remaining to give the Red Wolves a 57-56 advantage.
The two teams traded buckets three times, with Denver regaining the lead for good when junior Emiko Smith scored inside to give the Pioneers a 60-59 advantage with 3:27 to play, and Denver closed out the game with a 15-2 run to seal the win, hitting nine straight free throws down the stretch.
After shooting 34.8 percent in the opening 20 minutes, Arkansas State shot 51.6 percent from the floor in the second half to help spur its comeback. For the game, A-State finished 24-of-54 from the field (.444) while Denver went 25-of-49 (.510). The Red Wolves forced 15 turnovers on the night while committing just 11 and enjoyed a 15-5 advantage in points off of turnovers, but Denver outrebounded ASU 34-22 and hit 18-of-19 free throws. A-State missed just twice from the free throw line, going 9-for-11.