RIVIERA MAYA, Mexico (11/30/13) — The Arkansas State women's basketball team concluded play at the 2013 Cancun Challenge presented by Triple Crown Sports at the Hard Rock Resort Saturday afternoon with a 69-66 loss to Arizona State.
The Red Wolves (4-4) trailed by six at 62-56 with 1:01 to play, but Aundrea Gamble cut the deficit to four with a layup and a Sun Devils turnover on the inbounds pass resulted in a 3-pointer by Jane Morrill to make it a one point game with 35 seconds to play.
A-State fouled to put Deja Mann at the line for Arizona State, who made 1-of-2 free throws, but the Red Wolves failed to collect the rebound off the miss and the Arizona State (6-1) made two subsequent free throws to push the advantage to 67-63 with 14 seconds to go.
Morrill hit another 3-pointer with four seconds to go cut it the lead to 67-66, but the Red Wolves turned the ball over after Arizona State hit two free throws to set the final.
"I leave this tournament feeling a lot better where we are as a team," A-State head coach Brian Boyer said. "While we leave with three losses that was just a gutty effort today and we had two chances to really drop our heads and get behind and the player didn't do that and their composure and confidence and fought through those runs and gave ourselves a chance to win the game."
Arkansas State led briefly in the second half when Brittney Gill scored to start the half to put the Red Wolves up 32-31 but the Sun Devils responded with a pair of free throws to go up by one and never trailed again. A-State did tie the game two more times in the half when Jalen O'Bannon made 1-of-2 free throws to make it 37-37 and Carlisha Wyatt tied the game at 39-39 with 12:48 to go with a layup.
After winning the battle on the boards 14-9 in the first half, the Red Wolves failed to continue the effort as the Sun Devils finished the game with a 34-26 margin in the category. Arizona State also went 19-for-27 from the free throw line in the second half, while A-State was just 3-of-6.
After struggling to find its shooting rhythm in the first two games in Cancun, the Red Wolves found their stride on Saturday. A-State shot 54.7 percent (29-53) from the field, it highest mark of the season, including a 60 percent clip in the first half. Morrill led the team in the category by going 7-10 from the field and finished with 16 points. Gamble had a game-high 23 points, 15 of which came in the second half. She was also named the Cancun Challenge All-Tournament Team.
Arizona State started the game on a 6-0 run, but the Red Wolves were not rattled and went on a 9-0 run of their own to take a 9-6 lead with 13:30 to go in the first half. Arkansas State maintained a lead until the 3:19 mark of the half when Katie Hempen gave the Sun Devils a 25-24 edge.
The teams would trade baskets over the final three minutes of the half with Sun Devils taking a 31-30 lead into the break. The first half featured six lead changes and four ties.
Jalen O'Bannon was named to the Cancun Challenge All-Tournament team after leading the Red Wolves with 14.3 points and 7.7 rebounds over the three-game span. She also had her first career double-double against Illinois and led Arkansas State in scoring in two of its three games.
A-State will have an extended break from game action to prepare for final exams on the campus of Arkansas State. The Red Wolves return action Dec. 12 at Wichita State.