Devils Top Owls, Advance to Second Round

Winning in the NCAA Tournament isn't ever easy. Sometimes you just hope to keep it close until halftime and hope to be the team that uses a big run to take control of the game. On Sunday night in College Park, Maryland, the Arizona State Sun Devils were that team. The Devils used a 13-0 run to start the second half to fend off the Temple Owls, 61-54 in front of 6,020 at the Comcast Center.

"That was a hard-fought win. Our hats are definitely off to Temple. They are an outstanding team and took us to the wire. Ashley Morris and Lady Comfort were great seniors and Dawn Staley does a tremendous job," said ASU Head Coach Charli Turner Thorne. "I am very proud of my team and their effort. Coming east and playing a team of Temple's caliber and we hadn't played in two weeks so we had to get some rust off. It's good to get this game under our belts and hopefully with each game, we'll get sharper."

Temple star Ashley Morris scored eight quick points in a 10-4 Owls run to start the game. After the Devils trailed by seven points with nearly four minutes gone by in the first half, they turned to their defense to spark a 15-2 run. ASU held Temple to just one basket in 11:20 of play to take a 23-17 lead.

Temple closed out the first half on a 6-3 run over the final 5:05 to even things up at 26-26 at the break. The Devils played a very sluggish first half after a two-week break.

"Any team is going to struggle when you don't play for two weeks. It's hard to simulate a game situation in practice, but in the second half, we got back to our solid basketball and got it done," said ASU guard Briann January.

You could tell that play was going to be much more physical right away in the second half. That didn't seem to faze the Sun Devils who opened the half on a 13-0 run to take control of the game at 39-26. Lauren Lacey, who led the Devils with 14 points, made a few shots in the lane to start the half and Jill Noe followed with a three pointer.

"Inside was extremely physical. We've seen a lot of physical teams and that's why we've played a really intense preseason schedule to prepare us for March," said Lacey.

Lacey credited her teammates for getting her the ball in the paint.

"The great thing about our team is we have both an inside and outside game plan whenever we go into a game. The guards did a great job of getting me the ball inside, not just me, but all of our post players. First half we struggled a bit, but in the second half, we slowed down, put the ball up and it went in the basket."

Dymond Simon then made a beautiful pass to Sybil Dosty who scored prompting Temple Head Coach Dawn Staley to call a timeout; sensing things were getting out of hand. The timeout didn't help as ASU continued to roll out of the locker room as Kayli Murphy stole the ball and went all the way in for a lay-up capping the run.

"In the first half, we didn't play as we normally do and take things away, I thought," said Turner Thorne, "Offensively, we weren't playing strong in the paint and playing soft. We came out in the second half and got more aggressive on defense, took the ball up stronger, were a little more patient and we settled down, took our time and took the ball stronger to the basket. We also picked up our defense."

"I thought we lost it on the defensive end, not necessarily what we were doing on an offensive end. I thought we came out in the second half and gave up an easy lay-up," said Temple Head Coach Dawn Staley, "Our players were not ready to play and then we just played the ball screen wrong on (Jill) Noe and she got a three off ... I think that gave them a little cushion to open the game up. It was more so of a mental breakdown defensively but other than that I feel the ballgame was pretty even."

The Owls didn't fold on the spot as they used a 7-2 run to cut the ASU lead to 41-33. But the Arizona State seniors built the Devils lead back to 48-33. Noe, who finished with 13 points, got a three point play the old fashioned way and Regan Pariseau hit one from beyond the arc to make it a 15 point game. Noe said she wasn't thinking about her career coming to an end on Sunday at all.

"I try not to think like that. I try to take everything minute by minute and I just knew if I went out and had fun and brought a lot of energy things would turn in our favor. It was contagious and it was really fun. My teammates were helping me stay energized. This was a great team win."

The Owls wouldn't go away as they continued to chip away before they got the lead down to six, but that was as close as they'd get. Lauren Lacey hit a free throw and Simon connected on a basket to seal the victory over Temple, who had won 14 out of their last 16 games heading into the tournament.

The Owls relied too much on the scoring of Ashley Morris, who led Temple with 21 points in her last game as a collegiate.

"Ashley usually does her part but we just need some other people to step up. Yes, score points, but be a threat out there on the floor. I think everybody just sat around watching her go to work and our players never really became a threat on the floor," said Staley, "I told our team, we lost the heart and soul of our basketball team ... She was it this year! Hopefully our players will come back and this sour taste that's left in our mouth will force them to do a little more during the off season."

January spoke praises of Morris.

"She's an extremely quick and athletic guard. We tried to contain her and keep our hands up. We tried to take her out of her comfort zone the whole game, but she's a great player."

ASU now advances to face the third-seeded Duke Blue Devils at Comcast Center on Tuesday. Duke used the 16 points from Wanisha Smith to run past Murray State 78-57. Tipoff for the second round showdown is set for 4PM. The Devils will try and knock off the #9 Blue Devils, who finished third in the ACC, and advance to the Sweet 16 in Oklahoma City.

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