Nebraska claims first tourney win in 10 years behind Griffin's 26

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) -- Nebraska's first NCAA tournament win in 10 years turned from a frolic to a scare.

The Cornhuskers led the entire game and by 15 in the second half, then held off a furious comeback bid by Xavier in a 61-58 victory in the opening round of the Spokane Regional.

Kelsey Griffin tied a season high with 26 points for the eighth-seeded Cornhuskers (21-11). Tay Hester had 13 points and Cory Montgomery 12 to help Nebraska earn a matchup with top-seeded Maryland on Tuesday.

Jerri Taylor scored 19 points for Xavier (24-9), the Atlantic 10 champions. It was the third straight one-and-out appearance for the Musketeers since they reached the finals of the Mideast Regional in 2001.

Xavier trailed 39-24 with 17:23 left and 51-37 with 8:41 remaining before making a late run. But a breakaway layup by Nebraska's Dominique Kelley with 16 seconds left made it 61-55, and time ran out on the Musketeers.

"When we got the lead, we got a little tentative," Cornhuskers coach Connie Yori said.

And Xavier was only too happy to take advantage.

"At the end of the game we finally found a sense of urgency," coach Kevin McGruff said. "I just wish we would have found that earlier."

The Musketeers never did find a way to handle Griffin, who went 10-for-17 from the floor and made six of eight free throws.

"She's one of the most underrated players in the country," Yori said. "But people in the Big 12 know who she is."

And now, so do the Musketeers.

"She made a lot of plays when we needed her to make them," Yori said.

Xavier had won four straight and seven of eight, but couldn't overcome a slow start against a Nebraska team in search of its first NCAA tournament win in four tries since 1998. The Cornhuskers came in with five losses in their last eight games, but hardly looked the part of a team in a slump after the opening tip.

Danielle Page and Hester made successive 3-pointers, Griffin added a three-point play and a short jumper, and Kelley scored on a drive to put the Cornhuskers up 13-2. During that time, the Musketeers went 1-for-7 from the floor with four turnovers.

Taylor then contributed seven points in an 11-4 run, but baskets by Griffin, Hester and Montgomery restored the Cornhuskers' 11-point cushion.

Xavier trailed 30-20 at halftime after shooting 26 percent (9-for-35), including 1-for-10 from 3-point range.

A 3-pointer by Montgomery gave the Cornhuskers a 15-point advantage early in the second half, and after the Musketeers closed to 43-34, Montgomery scored six points in an 8-2 spree that seemingly put Nebraska in control.

Xavier made a game of it, but now has no choice but to lament its slow start in this game and look forward to next season.

"With such young talent," McGruff said, "I know I'm going to really challenge and push our team during the offseason to make sure that given an opportunity to get back to the NCAA tournament, we show up and put our best foot forward."