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
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,
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
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
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.