9:00 PM ET, December 21, 2004
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- Emily Westerberg saved her best performance so far for the biggest opponent.The Arizona State guard had a season-high 18 points and Kristen Kovesdy added 14, leading the Sun Devils to a 61-50 upset of No. 8 Connecticut on Tuesday night."We know they're the eighth-ranked team, but we just looked at them as any other team and played as hard as we could," Westerberg said. "We are the underdogs when we go out there, and as underdogs we always expect to go on and overachieve."It was the first December loss in 11 years for the three-time defending NCAA champions, snapping a streak of 60 straight victories since a defeat at Stanford on Dec. 28, 1993. It also was the earliest UConn has lost twice in its first six games since 1992-93."We're not used to struggling," Huskies coach Geno Auriemma said. "I have a sick feeling in my stomach right now."Teams are a reflection of their coach, and right now this team reflects what I've been able to do with them up to this point. I would have to say that's pretty bad, so I feel pretty bad," he said.Auriemma closed the locker room and refused to bring in players for interviews, saying they were distraught.The Sun Devils (8-2) were coming off a 61-45 loss at New Mexico that knocked them out of the Top 25 after one week in the rankings. But they used dogged defense and the outside-inside punch of Westerberg and Kovesdy to win their ninth straight home game and 22nd in the last 24.Coach Charli Turner Thorne's biggest win over a ranked opponent was against then-No. 2 Stanford in the 2002 Pac-10 tournament, but she thought this one was more special."Connecticut is kind of East vs. West, a little bit, and just for us and for the Pac-10 I think this is great," she said. "We don't always seem to get the recognition that sometimes we feel we deserve, and I'm proud of our team right now."Ashley Battle had a career-high 21 points and nine rebounds, but for the second straight game the Huskies (4-2) had only one player in double figures and a season-low in points. They were in action for the first time in two weeks, since they beat Hartford 55-32 on Dec. 7.Barbara Turner had a double-double that game, but this time she was held to six points and four rebounds, going 3-for-7 from the floor and 0-for-5 from the line.The last time the Huskies had fewer points was in a 48-34 win at Virginia Tech in March.Westerberg had three steals, contributing to 24 UConn turnovers.Westerberg usually shot from the perimeter but made her biggest basket on a 6-foot turnaround with 7:50 remaining, opening a 48-44 lead.No more than four points separated the teams after that until Amy Denson's jumper with 1:46 left -- Arizona State's final basket -- created a 54-48 gap.In the final minute, Carrie Buckner, Kylan Loney and Westerberg sank two free throws each, and Denson added one.Turner had a chance to extend a 31-30 halftime lead but missed two free-throw attempts 19 seconds after the break, and the Sun Devils got the ball to Kovesdy for three quick layups. She was fouled on the third and missed the free-throw attempt, but Denson got the rebound.That led to two free throws by Westerberg, sending Arizona State to a 38-31 lead with 16:27 left.But Battle made a 3-pointer and a layup 32 seconds apart, Rashidat Sadiq tied it with 14:38 to go and Mel Thomas gave the Huskies a 40-38 lead with a layup with 10:38 to go.Denson and Kovesdy led the way back with scrappy play inside -- Denson had six of her eight rebounds and Kovesdy had all three of hers in the second half."At halftime the coaches told us we can't have them shooting shots in the paint -- we had to protect our paint and get the rebounds, and that's exactly what we did," Kovesdy said.The Sun Devils' biggest lead in the first half was 6-1, but UConn responded with a 16-2 run to go ahead 17-8 with 10:20 remaining. Battle had four baskets in the surge, giving the Huskies a 9-8 lead with a strong reverse layup, and they kept it until Kovesdy's three-layup burst early in the second half.
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