Sun Devils Survive First Round Scare To Top UCR, 57-50

March 17, 2007

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Upstart UC Riverside appeared to be nothing more than a minor hurdle for third-seeded Arizona State. Instead, the Sun Devils needed a furious second-half rally to avoid one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tournament history.

Briann January scored 15 points, Danielle Orsillo added 13, and third-seeded ASU rallied from a 15-point deficit to beat the 14th-seeded Highlanders 57-50 on Saturday night in a first-round game of the Greensboro Regional.

The Sun Devils pulled out the victory by outscoring UC Riverside 19-2 after Chanel Foster's basket with just under eight minutes remaining gave the Highlanders a 48-38 lead.

UC Riverside played without Kemie Nkele down the stretch. The Big West Player of the Year had 16 points and six rebounds before fouling out with 4:13 left.

Aubree Johnson had 11 points and 10 rebounds for No. 10 ASU (29-4), which will face sixth-seeded Louisville in a second-round game Monday night. The 25th-ranked Cardinals (27-7) beat 11th-seeded Brigham Young 80-54 earlier Saturday night.

Teams seeded 14th have never won an NCAA tournament game since the current format was adopted in 1994. Only one team seeded 14th or lower has prevailed in the first round - 16th-seeded Harvard beat top-seeded Stanford in 1998.

The Sun Devils trailed 32-25 after a miserable first half in which they shot 9-of-27 and committed nine turnovers. Emily Westerberg and Johnson, ASU's senior leaders and top scorers, combined for only six points.

The Highlanders (21-11) scored the first eight points of the second half for a 40-25 lead, prompting the UC Riverside fans on hand to increase the volume of their 'UCR, UCR' chants. The school is located about 60 miles east of Galen Center.

Amber Cox's only basket put the Highlanders on top 44-29 before the Sun Devils finally put it together, scoring nine straight points to move within six.

UC Riverside extended its lead back to 10 before ASU rallied again, and January's three-point play with 3:08 remaining capped an 11-0 run and gave the Sun Devils a 49-48 lead - their first since the opening five minutes.

Brittany Waddell scored with 2:45 left to put UC Riverside back in front, but the Highlanders wouldn't score again.

Westerberg made two free throws 17 seconds later to put the Sun Devils ahead for good. Two free throws by January, another pair by Johnson and a basket by Westerberg completed the scoring.

From the opening tipoff, ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne shuffled her players in and out, just as she's done all year. By the time the game was four minutes old, nine had played.

But the Highlanders weren't intimidated, and took a 16-7 lead with some help from the Sun Devils, who shot 2-of-12 and committed four turnovers in the first 8 1/2 minutes.

ASU battled back drawing within two points twice before being outscored 7-2 to finish the half. Nkele, the Big West Player of the Year, outfought the Sun Devils for an offensive rebound and scored as time was running out to give her 12 points and UC Riverside its seven-point lead.

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