Arizona State 67, Bowling Green 49

Saturday, March 24th 2007, 4:32 pm
By: News On 6

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) _ After two NCAA tournament games full of struggle, Arizona State finally played up to its standards again.

After rallying from 15-point deficits in each of the first two rounds, the Sun Devils got 16 points from last-minute starter Danielle Orsillo and led nearly the entire way to beat Bowling Green 67-49 Saturday in the Greensboro Regional.

The win gave third-seeded Arizona State (31-4) its first trip to the NCAA tournament's round of eight, where the Sun Devils will face Rutgers on Monday with a chance to go to the Final Four.

Rutgers and Arizona State were supposed to play in the championship game of the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam in November, but the game was canceled after the 15-year-old brother of Arizona State senior Aubree Johnson died while in St. Thomas to watch her play.

Because of the NCAA's ``catastrophic event'' rule, neither team was given a loss for the missed game.

After Arizona State's win, Rutgers upset top-seeded Duke 53-52 to set up the matchup.

``A lot of our players, people in our ASU family, think that it might be fate that this game does happen,'' Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne said of a potential matchup with the Scarlet Knights.

Emily Westerberg added 15 points for the Sun Devils, who played without starter Briann January but still turned in their steadiest performance of the tournament.

``We want to be like Duke and like Tennessee and Connecticut,'' said coach Turner Thorne, who has guided the Sun Devils to five NCAA trips in seven seasons. ``We want to be a top-10 program year in and year out, not just this year. We took the next step officially today.''

Arizona State shot 61 percent to build a 16-point halftime lead, took a 37-24 rebounding advantage and scored 16 points off turnovers to end the seventh-seeded Falcons' surprise tournament run.

``We told Coach that we packed our offense for this trip,'' Westerberg said. ``I always say that you can't shoot that bad all the time. We knew we had gotten all of it out of us.''

Orsillo's big day made sure the Sun Devils didn't miss January, the team's second-leading scorer who was a game-time scratch because of a concussion suffered in the second-round win against Louisville. January had led the team in scoring in its first two NCAA games.

Orsillo came in averaging 9.7 points with two starts. On Saturday, the sophomore hit her first six shots and finished 7-for-12 in 34 minutes against the Falcons (31-4).

``I just go out and play hard when I'm on the court, whether it's at the beginning or whether it's coming off the bench,'' Orsillo said. ``When I found out I was starting, I thought, 'Hey, I'm going to be playing a little sooner than normal.' It was a little more nerve-racking just knowing that. But once I was out there playing basketball, it was just a minor distraction.''

Arizona State should get a confidence boost from this performance after its earlier struggles in the tournament.

In the first round, Arizona State trailed by 15 points three times in the second half before using a 19-2 run late to beat 14th-seeded UC Riverside 57-50. Two days later against sixth-seeded Cardinals, the Sun Devils missed their first 15 shots and trailed by 14 with 11 minutes left before rallying for a 67-58 win.

Arizona State had shot just 36 percent in those wins after entering the tournament shooting 47 percent this season. Against Bowling Green, the Sun Devils finished at 51 percent and hit 5 of 10 3-pointers.

``We talked to our team about it, that they're too talented offensively to continue to have poor shooting nights,'' Bowling Green coach Curt Miller said. ``We wanted to guard them inside-out and force them to make outside shots. When they started making outside shots, you could see our kids' eyes got big going, 'It's going to be one of those nights.'''

This time, the Sun Devils trailed only 2-0 when Ali Mann scored on the Falcons' first possession. Arizona State responded with a 14-2 run _ ending with consecutive 3-pointers from Orsillo _ for an early 10-point lead, then pushed it to 40-24 at the break on Orsillo's jumper in the lane in the final minute.

Bowling Green got no closer than nine points after halftime.

Mann scored 15 points in her final game for Bowling Green, which upset No. 2 seed Vanderbilt in the second round to become the first team from the Mid-American Conference to reach the round of 16. The Falcons had lost in the NCAA first round the past two seasons.

``I don't think this one loss can take away from the great things we accomplished here,'' Mann said. ``It's just been an amazing ride. We've done things people never thought we could do.''