SAN DIEGO -- Home-court advantage never looked so good to the San Diego State Aztecs.
Jene Morris tied her career high with 35 points to lead the Aztecs to a 76-70 win over DePaul on Saturday in the NCAA tournament's opening round.San Diego State improved to 15-0 this season at Cox Arena, and ran its overall home winning streak to 17.Attendance was 3,651 at 12,400-seat Cox Arena, a far cry from the regular-season average of 975."Without a doubt it was an exciting, exciting win," SDSU coach Beth Burns said. "We have not had the opportunity to play in front of that many people in our arena."The biggest crowd for women's hoops at Cox Arena was 5,271 for a game against Connecticut in December 2007."It gave us confidence. We wanted to give them a show," Morris said. "To have an atmosphere like that, I can't even explain it."The 10th-seeded Aztecs (24-7) get one more game at home this season, on Monday night against the winner of the UC Santa Barbara-Stanford game in the Berkeley regional.Natasha Williams scored 22 and Deirdre Naughton had 16 for DePaul (23-10), the No. 7 seed."What makes the tournament such a great event is the one-and-out," DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. "Every team's going to have the crash-and-burn like we did tonight."Playing in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1997, the Aztecs opened the second half with a 15-4 run to take control of the game.The game was tied 36-all at halftime before the Aztecs used a harassing defense and three 3-point shots -- two by Davis and one by Morris -- to take a 51-40 lead."Our defensive pressure helped lead to some easy baskets," Burns said.SDSU's biggest lead was 55-44 with just over 9 minutes left.DePaul got back into it behind Williams, who made three straight shots to cut the Aztecs' lead to 60-55 with 4:38 left.DePaul got within four three times in the final minutes. The Blue Demons could have gotten within one basket but Morris, a junior guard from San Francisco, stole the ball with 1:03 left to prevent a possible breakaway layup."When DePaul made runs we all stuck together," Morris said.San Diego State made all 10 of its free throws in the final 1:43 and was 23-of-29 overall. Morris went 12-for-14.Morris set her career high with 35 points at UNLV on Jan. 26.SDSU has won four NCAA tournament games in its history but has never advanced past the second round. It had lost its last three NCAA tournament games.Asked if it was Morris' best game, Burns said: "No. She's special. Was I surprised? No She likes March. That's a good thing. I'm glad she likes March."DePaul was playing in the NCAAs for the seventh straight year. It had won its opening-round game three of the last five seasons.