March 23, 2008
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Behind Courtney Lee's dazzling first-half performance and some clutch shooting down the stretch, the 12th-seeded Western Kentucky Hilltoppers advanced to the round of 16 for the first time in 15 years with a 72-63 victory over No. 13 San Diego on Sunday.
For San Diego, the loss ended a March run that included consecutive wins over three nationally ranked opponents: Saint Mary's and Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference tournament, and Connecticut on Thursday in the NCAA Tournament's first round.
Lee finished with 29 points, including a huge 3-pointer that gave his team the lead for good with 6:17 remaining. Six straight free throws in the final 34 seconds that sealed the victory.
Gyno Pomare had 20 points and nine rebounds for the Toreros (22-14), who overcame a 15-point deficit in the second half but fell short in the closing minutes.
Pomare kept the Toreros close. After hitting 10 of 12 shots before fouling out in Friday's game, Pomare finished 7-of-10 from the field Sunday.
Tyrone Brazelton added 15 points for the Hilltoppers (29-6). Devin Ginty's 3-pointer capped an 18-2 run that turned a lopsided game into a nail-biter with about six minutes to play.
Lee's 3-pointer came a few seconds after Ginty gave San Diego a 55-54 lead, the Toreros' first since going up 5-4 early.
Brazelton hit another 3 a few minutes later, then Western Kentucky pulled away from the free throw line as San Diego struggled to make a shot.
Considering what he did in the first half, it was no surprise Lee got the ball in the final minute.
The Hilltoppers shot 57 percent in the first half, a sizzling start that helped them open a 10-point lead in the first 10-plus minutes. They stretched it 37-23 with an 8-0 spurt just before halftime.
Lee was San Diego's biggest matchup problem.
Western Kentucky's leading scorer was 8-of-11 shooting and had 19 points in the first 20 minutes.
Lee hit a bank shot, two runners in the lane and finished the first half 3-for-4 from 3-point range.
The Toreros switched defenders several times in an effort to slow him down, but nothing worked.
Lee was clearly feeling it. He even waived off Rogers once before hitting a pull-up jumper in the lane.