Huskers get win over Xavier

Kelsey Griffin scored a game-high 26 points to lead the Nebraska women's basketball team to its first NCAA Tournament victory since 1998 with a 61-58 win over Xavier on Sunday at the Comcast Center.

Kelsey Griffin, a two-time first-team All-Big 12 forward from Eagle River, Alaska , hit 10-of-17 shots from the field and 6-of-8 free throws while adding four rebounds and three steals.

"Kelsey Griffin had a great game for us, and she is one of the most underrated players in the country," Nebraska Coach Connie Yori said. "She doesn't get a lot of notoriety, but the Big 12 people know who she is. Her name may not be one you know across the country, but you can see how great of a player she is. We're glad she's on our team. She made a lot of plays when we needed her to make them."

Griffin's effort, which tied her season-high point total for the third time, also matched the second-most points ever scored by a Husker in an NCAA Tournament game, trailing only Nicole Kubik's 32 points against Kentucky in 1999.

With the victory, the eighth-seeded Huskers improved to 21-11 on the season and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since battling Old Dominion at Norfolk, Va. , in 1998. The ninth-seeded Musketeers finished their season with a 24-9 record after winning the Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament title.

The Huskers' win also allowed the Big 12 to improve to 7-0 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, with only No. 8 Texas facing No. 9 Minnesota in Bridgeport, Conn. , tonight.

Along with Griffin's monstrous performance, Tay Hester pumped in 13 points, including two free throws with 35 seconds left to help Nebraska seal the victory. Hester's effort matched her second-highest point total of the season and put her in double figures for the first time since helping the Huskers to a win over Texas A&M on Jan. 23.

"The pace of the game helped me because it's the type that I like," Hester said. "I attacked the basket and they were having trouble with transition defense. We knew that if we kept up our pace we would get easy layups. I just attacked the basket."

Sophomore forward Cory Montgomery also gave the Huskers a major lift off the bench  by scoring 12 points, including a pair of three-pointers and six straight points during a two-minute stretch in the second half. The 6-2 forward from Cannon Falls, Minn. , added five rebounds and a steal in a strong effort.

"When I come in, I try to give my team a needed spark and do my part," Montgomery said. "My shot was on tonight. I came in and worked hard. I wanted to be aggressive and help my team by making the open shot."

In addition to the offensive exploits of the Huskers, Nebraska defense was tremendous led by the inside play of senior forward Danielle Page. The 6-2 native out of Monument, Colo. , pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds while tying her own NU NCAA Tournament record with five blocked shots. She added five points and two assists.

Griffin and Hester both had big first halves to help the Huskers build a 14-point lead with three minutes left in the opening period. Griffin hit 6-of-8 shots from the field to lead NU with 13 first-half points, while Hester hit 4-of-6 shots from the field in the opening period to finish with nine points while adding an assist and a steal.

"I thought the pace of the game was in our favor," Yori said. "We wanted to run up and down and the fact that Ta'Shia Phillips got in foul trouble in the first half, I thought was important. Xavier didn't have the play to run with us, so at that point, I thought that favored us through a good portion of the game."

Nebraska led by double figures for more than 30 minutes in the game, after opening the contest on a 13-2 run in the first three minutes. The Huskers maintained their double-digit lead for nearly the entire first half and led by 12 points at 56-44 with 4:39 left.

However, a three-pointer by XU's Jerri Taylor sparked an 8-0 Musketeer run over the next four minutes that cut the NU lead to 56-52 with 58 seconds left.

Griffin hit one of two free throws with 47 seconds left to end XU's run, before Hester grabbed a big defensive rebound and was fouled with 35 seconds left. Hester, who was shooting just over 50 percent from the line on the season, then connected on a pair of free throws to push NU's lead back to seven points at 59-52.

Taylor hit her fifth three-pointer of the game to cut NU's lead back to 59-55, before Dominique Kelley sprinted to the basket for a breakaway layup with 16 seconds left to seal the Husker win. Taylor finished with a team-high 19 points for Xavier, while Kelley finished with five points, five rebounds and an assist for NU.

Amber Harris, who hit a three-pointer in the closing seconds to provide the final margin, added 14 points and 10 rebounds for Xavier, while Ta'Shia Phillips finished with nine points and 16 boards for the Musketeers.

Nebraska shot just 38.1 percent (24-63) from the field for the game, including just 4-of-18 shooting from three-point range. But NU outscored XU, 9-5, at the free throw line. The Huskers also won the turnover battle (16-14). Xavier, which came into the game as one of the nation's top rebounding teams with a plus-8.6 margin, won the battle of the boards, 48-41.

NU held Xavier to just 33.3 percent (23-69) from the field, including 7-of-22 shooting from three-point range. The Musketeers managed just 25.7 percent (9-35) shooting in the first half to finish with just 20 points. It was the fifth time this season that Nebraska held an opponent to 20 first-half points.

NU jumped out to a 13-2 lead in the first five minutes, as Page and Hester hit back-to-back threes to open the game before Griffin ran out for a three-point play to give NU a 9-2 edge in the opening two minutes. Griffin scored again, before Kelley gave the Huskers their first double-figure lead on her layup with 16:15 left in the half. Nebraska added a 13-3 run later in the half to push its lead to 30-16 with 3:45 left in the opening period.

The Huskers continued to extend their lead early in the second half, as  Montgomery 's second three-pointer of the game pushed NU's lead to 39-24 with 17:14 left.

Nebraska will face the winner of the first-round battle between No. 1 Maryland and 16th-seeded Coppin State on Tuesday at 6 p.m. Central time. The game will be televised live by ESPN2 and ESPNU, while radio coverage will be available on the Husker Sports Network, including a free audio broadcast on

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