Sun Devils hold off Temple to advance, 61-54
Lauren Lacey opened the second half with two straight baskets to ignite a 13-point run, and the Sun Devils pulled away to a 61-54 victory Sunday night to advance to the second round of the Oklahoma City Regional.
Sixth-seeded Arizona State (22-10) will face No. 3 seed Duke, a 78-57 winner over Murray State, on Tuesday night.
Lacey scored 14 points and Jill Noe had 12 for the Sun Devils, who have won six of seven and are 16-5 after a lackluster 6-5 start.
"I'm very proud of my team and the effort, coming all the way over here and playing a team of that caliber," Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne said.
Senior guard Ashley Morris led Temple (21-13) with 21 points and Lady Comfort had 11. But no one else on the team reached double figures, and the Owls went 1-for-6 from 3-point range.
"We just have to have better production from other people," Temple coach Dawn Staley said. "Ashley usually does her part, but we need other people to step up. I think everyone just sat around watching her."
Coming into the tournament, the Sun Devils had outscored their opponents by an average of 12 points in the first half over the last six games. Against No. 11 Temple, however, Arizona State sputtered into halftime locked in a tie at 26.
Everything changed in the second half. After Lacey made a layup and a hook in the lane, Noe hit a 3-pointer and Sybil Dosty sank a jumper in the lane. Dymond Simon added a baseline jumper after an offensive rebound, and Kayli Murphy capped the 13-point blitz by making a layup with 15:34 left.
So what was made the difference, a big halftime speech?
"A few X's and O's, but basically we went in there and said that was our warmup," Turner Thorne said. "Offensively we weren't playing very strong in the paint. And we came out and got more aggressive on defense."
Staley said, "I think it was some little mental breakdowns, essentially. Other than that, I think the game was pretty even."
The Owls responded with a 7-2 spree to close to 41-33, but a three-point play by Noe boosted the lead back to double digits, and minutes later Reagan Pariseau sank a 3-pointer to make it 48-35.
Temple used a late surge to cut the gap to six points with two minutes left, but a free throw by Lacey and a basket by Simon sealed the victory.
It was a disappointing end to a feel-good season for the Owls, who rebounded from a 7-10 start to win 14 of 16 entering the tournament. Both losses came against Atlantic 10 champion Xavier, which was eliminated by Nebraska earlier Sunday.
Temple has appeared in five straight NCAA tournaments, but is 2-5 in that span. Now the Owls must learn to play without Morris, whose career is done.
"I told our team we lost the heart and soul of our basketball team," Staley said. "We have to go to the Wiz and find something so that we can be effective next year."
Arizona State's run of four straight tournament appearances and four successive 20-win seasons are the longest such streaks in school history.