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Volume 3, Issue 4                                    University of Houston

Lady Cougars get off to 2-1 conference record

By Crystal J. Doucette
Breaking News Staff

With 35 seconds left and a 20-point lead, the Lady Cougars added insult to injury against Louisville with a fastbreak layup by senior forward Mone't Sykes off a steal. Sykes hit a career-high 23 points on eight-of-14 shooting (seven-of-10 from the charity stripe) in the Conference USA matchup, including seven rebounds and three steals.

"I think we showed everyone in Conference USA that they have some competition," Sykes said.

The Lady Cougars snapped the Lady Cardinals' five-game winning streak Sunday with an 85-63 victory in Hofheinz Pavilion. Louisville was leading the American Division of C-USA with a 2-0 conference record, including a 72-58 win over the Cincinnati Lady Bearcats, who the Lady Coogs fell to in overtime, 63-62, on Friday.

Headlining the Louisville (7-7 overall, 2-1 C-USA) roster was freshman point guard Sara Nord, who was named C-USA Player of the Week on Jan. 1. Nord is one of only three freshmen to receive conference player of the week honors this season. UH guard/forward Chandi Jones (Dec. 4) and Cincinnati guard Valerie King (Dec. 18) were the other two freshmen honored.

"I didn't see (the matchup) as a challenge," Jones said. "I just saw (Nord) as another basketball player."

UH opened the game on a 13-0 run, shutting out the Lady Cards for almost five minutes as they handed Houston five points off turnovers, including a three-pointer from senior guard/forward Cathy Lida.

The Lady Cardinals put up their first point on a free throw from sophomore forward Carol Brown, who fouled out with 6:12 left in the game. Louisville finally earned two with a fastbreak off the rebound from junior guard Janelle Antoine.

Louisville never said die, closing the deficit to 16 in the first half after a 28-point UH lead and pulling even closer in the second half to within eight with more than 12 minutes left to play in regulation. The Lady Cards used their screen to push the runs led by Nord, who put in 21 points, five assists and three steals for the game.

"We weren't communicating very well on defense with their screen," freshman guard/forward Nicole Oliver said. Oliver has started in 14 of 15 games this season, forcing key turnovers with her defensive hustle. The 5-10 Nebraska native is second on the Lady Cougar roster with 29 steals, one behind Jones.

Houston adjusted to the Lady Cardinals' offense after a timeout, switching defenders and forcing Louisville turnovers and rushed attempts against the shot clock. The effort gave the Lady Cougars a 22-point cushion to end the game.

Lady Cougar junior forward/center Valerie Muoneke put up 10 points with seven rebounds in her third game since coming back from an injury. Sunday's game was her first C-USA start.

Louisville sophomore guard Marju Sober, C-USA Player of the Week for Dec. 11, put in 12 points for the Lady Cards, including two from beyond the arc.

The Lady Coogs are now 2-1 in C-USA play (9-6 overall). UH soundly defeated South Florida, 82-59, in its first conference game of the season, forcing 23 turnovers. Five UH players scored double-figures: Jones (22), Sykes (17), Muoneke (14), senior forward/center ShaRonda Lasseter (11) and Lida (10).

UH's loss to Cincinnati marked the first time this season Houston has lost a contest with a halftime lead. Jones scored all five of UH's points in the five-minute period. A UH foul put Lady Bearcat Tammy Douglas on the charity line with one second left to play in overtime. She sank the shot to give Cincinnati the win.

Jones finished the night with 22 points, followed by Sykes with 10 points and a career-high 12 rebounds -- her fourth career double-double and her fourth this season. The Lady Cougars forced 23 turnovers and snatched 12 steals in the loss.

Houston hits the road to face Southern Miss and Tulane on Friday and Sunday, respectively. The Lady Coogs return to Hofheinz to play a second matchup against South Florida on Jan. 21.

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