FRESNO, Calif. (AP) -- On a day the Sun Devils were dissatisfied with their typically impeccable defense, Arizona State's offense came through.
Emily Westerberg scored 14 of her 20 points in the first half and Arizona State advanced past the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the second time in four years with an 87-65 victory over Eastern Kentucky in an opener of the Tempe Regional on Saturday.Kristen Kovesdy added 18 points for the fifth-seeded Sun Devils, who beat three-time defending NCAA champion Connecticut in December and earned the school's highest NCAA Tournament seed since being fourth in both 1982 and '83."I think we know we can play better defense, but all in all I think we controlled the game from start to finish," Sun Devils coach Charli Turner Thorne said. "We were really pleased with our outing."Arizona State has gained attention for its relentless smothering defense, which made things hard for top-ranked Stanford in the Pac-10 tournament title game won by the Cardinal.The Sun Devils (23-9) pushed the tempo, flipping the ball around the perimeter and into the paint, keeping No. 12 Eastern Kentucky off balance for much of the game in the first meeting between the schools.The Sun Devils, winners of six of their last seven, will play either 13th-seeded UC Santa Barbara or No. 4 Notre Dame on Monday night after their second-highest scoring output of the season."We definitely didn't play our defense where we take away the shot from the paint," Kovesdy said. "But hopefully we got that all out in that game and the rest of the tournament we'll step up."Miranda Eckerle had 22 points and five rebounds for Eastern Kentucky (23-8), which trailed by as many as 21 points in the first half before making things interesting in the final 20 minutes."Every time we caught the ball, someone was there," Eckerle said. "They created havoc for us."Ashley Cazee hit back-to-back 3-pointers to pull her team within 57-43 with 12:43 left before Candis Cook's basket made it 57-45 moments later. They got as close as nine points, but the Lady Colonels couldn't stop the Sun Devils on defense and saw their school-record winning streak end at 15 games.Cazee, the Ohio Valley Conference freshman of the year, scored 17 of her 21 points in the second half, making all three of her 3-pointers.Eastern Kentucky, making its second NCAA appearance after losing to Georgia in the first round in '97, lost for the first time since a 65-57 defeat at Tennessee Tech on Jan. 15."I think overall we showed in spurts what we're capable of doing, but we never showed that consistency we had all year," Eastern Kentucky coach Larry Joe Inman said. "They created a lot of problems for us."After starting the season 3-6, the Lady Colonels won 20 of their final 22 games.The Sun Devils made 10 of their first 16 shots and forced four early turnovers by Eastern Kentucky to take a 23-7 lead. Arizona State, the top defensive team in the Pac-10 this season ahead of top-ranked Stanford, used a 21-5 run to take control.Pam Garrett, Eastern Kentucky's imposing 6-foot-1 center who had 109 fouls in 30 games coming in, picked up her third with 9:11 left in the first half and then got her fourth 3:56 before halftime. She fouled out with 7:43 remaining with five points and seven rebounds.The Lady Colonels went more than five minutes without a field goal and trailed 48-31 at halftime after shooting 35.7 percent.