Incredible Comeback Advances Sun Devils

Call it relentless determination or the luck of the Irish. But on this St. Patrick's Day, the third seed Lady Sun Devils clawed out of a 15-point deficit in the second half to topple the 14th seed UC Riverside 57-50 in the first round of the NCAA tournament played on the campus of USC. With the victory ASU will now meet Louisville, who beat BYU, for a Monday night match-up.

Arizona State (29-4) who was less than impressive in the Pac-10 tournament last weekend, was trailing UC Riverside (21-11) for literally the whole first half. Danielle Orsillo gave the Sun Devils a 7-6 lead at the 15:41 mark. A 10-0 run by the Highlanders was the first sign for the maroon and gold that they were in for a battle tonight; as UCR held their largest lead of the first half, nine points, and sported a 16-7 lead with 11:35 left until halftime. A three-point basket by Orsillo brought her team within two, 23-21 at the 6:04 mark. Alas, ASU managed just four more points until halftime and went down to the locker room trailing 32-25.

As bad as the first half ended for ASU, the beginning of the second half was even worse. The Sun Devils were scoreless for nearly the first five minutes, as the Highlanders jumped to a 40-25 lead at the 15:19 mark. ASU started to snap out of their funk, and a jumper by Kate Engelbrecht finally brought down the deficit to single digits, 44-35 with 9:53 left in the contest. UCR held a brief double digit lead, when another shot beyond the arc by Orsillo trimmed the lead to 48-41 at the 7:45 mark. ASU converted 10-11 free throws from that point on, which was a significant part of their 16-2 run to end the game, and allow the Sun Devil nation to breathe a sigh of relief.

Briann January had 15 points to pace ASU, while Orsillo added 13 in the cause. Aubree Johnson had a double-double with 11 points and ten rebounds. ASU shot just 34.7% from the field, but held the Highlanders to 37.3%. The Devils lost a close battle on the boards 31-29, but certainly did a good job controlling the glass during their fine play down the stretch. Kemie Nkele led all players on the floor with 16, and her fouling out with over four minutes in the game definitely didn't aid her team in stopping the ASU onslaught.

The Lady Devils escaped tonight with a win and avoided being the first ever third seed to be upset in the first round of the Women's tourney. It's highly doubtful that this type of display will be enough to advance to the sweet 16 round. It's time for the maroon and gold not only to win again, but to do so in a convincing manner - not for their followers but most importantly for themselves.

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