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NCAA First Four: Arizona State’s big first half buries Nevada; Fairleigh Dickinson beats South Texas

DJ Horne had 20 points and Arizona State raced to a big halftime lead and scored the most points in a First Four game, burying Nevada 98-73 on Wednesday night.

Desmond Cambridge Jr., a transfer from Nevada, scored 17 points as Arizona State (23-12) led 53-26 at the half and then kept up the pressure en route to the loss.

The first-half result was a season-high for Arizona State, which advanced as the No. 11 seed to face Texas Christian in a West Region first-round game on Friday in Denver.

Arizona State shot 67.7% of their shots from the ground and forced 10 turnovers in the first half, going 22-2 in eight minutes to pull away, while keeping up the pressure and forcing the Wolf Pack to the perimeter.

Will Baker scored 17 and Tre Coleman had 14 for the Wolf Pack (22-11). One of Nevada’s best players, Kenan Blackshear, fouled three early and sat on the bench for more than five minutes of the first half. Averaging 14.4 per game, he was limited to four points.

Fairleigh Dickinson 84, South Texas 61

Fairleigh Dickinson’s Ansley Almonor (5) celebrates after hitting a three-point shot against Texas Southern’s Zytarious Mortle (12) during the second half of a First Four game in the NCAA tournament on Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio.

(Darron Cummings/Associated Press)

Ansley Almonor scored 23 points and Fairleigh Dickinson beat Texas Southern 84-61 on Wednesday night for their first NCAA tournament victory in four seasons.

The Knights led 14-2 after going 12-0 in the first 3:29 and never relinquished the lead. Grant Singleton scored seven points during a 19-6 run in which the Knights led by as many as 18 points late in the first half.

Jordan Gilliam made a jumper that pulled Texas Southern within 10 points with 10:01 remaining in the second half. The Tigers shot 42% and went 1-for-17 from three-point range.

Fairleigh Dickinson shot 50% and made 11 3-pointers to advance to the East Region and play top-seeded Purdue in Columbus, Ohio on Friday.

“Our press got us going, and then our half court defense was excellent. We share the ball. We played selflessly,” Fairleigh Dickinson coach Tobin Anderson said. “When you play that well, life is pretty easy, so I thought we played very, very well.”

Joe Munden Jr. scored 17 points, Demetre Roberts had 15, Singleton finished with 13 and Sean Moore 10 for Fairleigh Dickinson (20-15).

John Walker III led Texas Southern (14-21) with 22 points. Joirdon Karl Nicholas added 10.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough to beat those guys and their 3-pointers tonight,” Texas Southern coach Johnny Jones said.

NCAA Women’s First Four

State of Mississippi 70, Illinois 56

Mississippi State's Jessika Carter works against Illinois' Kendall Bostic.

Mississippi State’s Jessika Carter, left, works against Illinois’ Kendall Bostic during the second half of a First Four game in the women’s NCAA tournament on Wednesday in South Bend, Indiana.

(Michael Caterina/Associated Press)

Jessika Carter had 22 points, nine rebounds and four blocks, Anastasia Hayes added 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists as Mississippi State beat Illinois 70-56 in South Bend, Indiana, in a First Four game.

Mississippi State (21-10) advances to the field of 64 to face No. 6 seed Creighton. The Bulldogs improved to 14-3 in the NCAA tournament since the 2016-17 season.

Freshman Debreasha Powe scored four points during Mississippi State’s 11-2 run to start the third quarter with a 42-32 lead. The Bulldogs extended it to 52-38 late in the quarter after shooting 53%. Kourtney Weber hit a 3-pointer to cap a 9-1 run early in the fourth quarter with a 61-39 lead.

After Mississippi State’s lead was cut to 12 points with 4:19 remaining, Carter scored four straight points to reach 20-plus for the sixth time this season.

JerKaila Jordan also had 11 points for Mississippi State. Weber finished with eight points.

Carter scored 10 points in the first half to help build a 31-30 lead. Makira Cook scored 11 points for Illinois, which shot 48% from the field but did not attempt a free throw compared to Mississippi State’s 10-of-12.

Cook, averaging 18.2 points, scored 21 points and Genesis Bryant added 17 for Illinois (22-10), which had one of the best comebacks in the country after going 7-20 last season. Illinois’ first free throws of the game came with 5:35 remaining in the third quarter.

The Illini were making their eighth trip to the NCAA tournament, their first since 2003.

Sacred Heart 57, South 47

Sacred Heart's Olivia Tucker and Ny'Ceara Pryor celebrate with teammates after a 57-47 win against Southern.

Sacred Heart’s Olivia Tucker, right, and Ny’Ceara Pryor (1) celebrate with teammates after a 57-47 win against Southern in a top-four game in the women’s NCAA tournament on Wednesday in Palo Alto.

(Tony Avelar / Associated Press)

Kelsey Wood had her second double-double of the season, Ny’Ceara Pryor had 11 points, eight rebounds and a career-high 10 assists, and Sacred Heart won its first NCAA tournament game with a 57-game victory. 47 over Southern in Palo Alto.

Sacred Heart (19-13), which has won six straight, plays Friday in the first round against fifth-ranked, first-seeded Stanford.

Wood finished with 10 points and a season-high 11 rebounds and Olivia Tucker added 13 points on 5-of-18 shooting, one of 10 from 3-point range, for the Pioneers.

Genovea Johnson, the only Southern player to score in double figures, finished with 13 points.

Tucker and Sierra Johnson made back-to-back baskets in the lane before Pryor added a layup that gave Sacred Heart their first lead at 18-16 with 6:28 remaining in the second quarter and the Jaguars trailed the rest of the way. Tucker hit a 3-pointer and Wood hit two free throws before Pryor scored the final four points in a 9-0 run to close out the first half that made it 33-20 with Sacred Heart leading by double figures until the closing seconds.

The Jaguars (18-15) had won five straight and nine of their last 10.

Pryor, who led the Northeast Conference in scoring 18.2 points per game this season, became the first player in conference history to win conference player of the year, defensive player of the year and rookie of the year. season. The 5-foot-3 guard, who was selected to the NEC First Team and All-Conference All-Rookie Team, entered the game leading the nation in steals per game (3.9) and steals overall (120). He finished with two steals against Southern.

Raven White scored seven points as the Jaguars took a 14-4 lead midway through the first quarter. Sacred Heart made just two of their first 11 field goal attempts before Amelia Wood made back-to-back 3-pointers 27 seconds apart to spark an 8–0 run before the Pioneers began the second quarter trailing by four.