The No. 13-ranked Arizona State women’s basketball team survived a scare from unranked Western Kentucky Friday night. Despite leading by as many as 18 points in the second half, the Sun Devils (5-1) found themselves in a struggle in the game’s final minute in their eventual 67-63 win in the first round of the 2006 Paradise Jam at St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.
Senior Emily Westerberg led the Sun Devils with 14 points before fouling out with less than five minutes left in the game and the Sun Devils maintaining a 10-point lead (62-52). After Westerberg fouled out, Western Kentucky went on an 11-2 run over the next 3:19 to pull within one point, 64-63, with 52 seconds remaining.
Freshman guard Kenzie Rich sparked Western Kentucky’s run, scoring eight of her 13 points in a span of a little more than a minute.
The game’s deciding sequence came when Sun Devils freshman guard Dymond Simon grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed shot by sophomore guard Briann January.
Simon capped ASU’s second chance with a driving layup to give the Sun Devils a 66-63 lead with 18 seconds remaining.
The Toppers (2-2) turned the ball over on their ensuing possession and January clinched the victory by making one of two free throws.
“I liked the resiliency we showed down the stretch,” ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “For a young team in their first road trip they could have easily folded and they didn’t.”
Senior guard Jill Noe scored nine of her 13 points in the first half for the Sun Devils.
Arizona State advanced to today’s championship game against No. 18 Rutgers (2-2), which beat Penn State 57-44 also on Friday.