Thursday, March 21, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 113



Lady Cougars heading to WNIT's Final Four

By Christian Schmidt
Daily Cougar Staff

VALPARAISO, Ind. The Lady Cougars have made the Final Four of the Women's National Invitational Tournament.

Kevin Harwerth/The Daily Cougar

Senior Rosalind Carter snags a rebound against Rice in the first round of the WNIT

Led by junior Angela Curl, the Cougars defeated an over-matched Valparaiso team 61-53 Wednesday night in Valparaiso, Ind.

Curl went 5-of-6 from behind the three-point line and 3-of-4 on her free throws, tallying 18 points in all. She hit a buzzer-beater to end the first half, and two of her
three-pointers took miraculous banks off the backboard before falling smoothly through the net.

"I just felt that it was going to go in," Curl said. "It didn't exactly look the prettiest, but it ended up falling, which is what counts."

"Angela's always been a great three-point shooter, but she's a better floor player than maybe anything else she brings to the game," said head coach Joe Curl, who
is also Angela's father.

With 12:20 to go in the first half, Houston took a 13-5 lead on sophomore Chandi Jones's lay-up.

Unfortunately, that lead quickly disappeared as Valparaiso went on an 11-2 run to give the Crusaders their first lead of the game at 16-15.

Houston used a late run, capped off by Curl's three-pointer, to end the half at 25-18 Houston.

With 9:54 remaining in the game, Houston took its largest lead at 48-35.

The game was never really in doubt after that, as Houston held off the Crusaders with some timely free-throws by Angela Curl and stellar defensive play by
Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year Nicole Oliver.

Senior post Valerie Muoneke dominated the boards early on, grabbing six rebounds in the first 10 minutes of the game.

When Muoneke was forced to sit on the bench with two fouls, the Cougars' rebounding edge quickly dissolved, and the teams went into halftime with 22 boards

Muoneke ended the game with 12 rebounds, six points and two blocks.

Jones, the Cougars' leading scorer for the season, had 20 points in the game, two below her season average. Jones also had four rebounds and three assists.

Houston held Valparaiso's top two scorers, seniors Marlous Nieuwveen and Jeanette Gray, to just 22 points, five points below their tournament average.

Perhaps the most telling statistic in the game was that of bench scoring. Houston had eight points from the bench, all by freshman guard Shondra Bush, while the
Crusaders' bench couldn't manage a single point.

Not coincidentally, that eight-point margin made the difference in the game.

The Lady Cougars ran early and often against Valparaiso, turning Crusader turnovers into easy baskets in the fast break. Houston scored six points on fast breaks
compared to the Crusaders' two.

Valparaiso, unable to match the athleticism and speed of the Lady Cougars, tried to slow the tempo of the game and force Houston to beat the Crusaders with its
half-court offense.

Unfortunately for Valparaiso, Houston proved more adept at operating in the half-court, hitting 42.4 percent of its field goals, compared to just 29.2 percent for the

Valparaiso's poor shooting cost the Crusaders the game, as they won the battle in nearly every other statistical category.

The Cougars got into foul trouble in each half and sent Valparaiso to the line 18 times during the game. The Crusaders hit 10 of those shots, just 55.6 percent.

On the other hand, the Cougars went to the line just eight times, but connected on six of those opportunities for 75 percent.

The Lady Cougars will take on Virginia Tech in the semi-finals of the WNIT. Virginia Tech's ratings percentage index used by the NCAA seeding committee as
evidence about how good a team's season was was No. 31 at the end of the regular season, possibly making it the best team not to make the NCAA

"They're one of the three or four best teams we've faced this season," coach Curl said.

The Virginia Tech game will be held in Blacksburg, Va., on Saturday at 7 p.m. The other WNIT semi-final game between Oregon and Michigan State will also take
place at 7 p.m. Saturday, though the site has yet to be determined.

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