Monday, March 25, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 115



Women advance to WNIT finals

By Brad Sebastian
Daily Cougar Staff

The UH women's basketball team (26-7) stunned Virginia Tech with a 77-72 overtime victory Saturday night in the Women's National Invitation
Tournament. The win is arguably the biggest in the history of the team.

Brian Viney/The Daily Cougar

Sophomore Chandi Jones has led the Lady Cougars all the way to the Women's National Invitation Tournament championship game.

The Lady Cougars and the No. 1-ranked University of Connecticut are the only teams to defeat Virginia Tech on its home court this season.

The frenzied crowd of 5,409 was silenced by the Cougars' improbable come-from-behind win.

"It was a great atmosphere," said Conference USA Player of the year Chandi Jones. "This is what we've dreamed of all year."

Late in the second half, the Cougars trailed by 11 points and the momentum was on Virginia Tech's side. With the season on the line, head
coach Joe Curl used a zone press.

The strategy worked. With the press, the Cougars created turnovers and clawed back in the game. The Cougars made 16 steals to just five for
Virginia Tech. Sophomore Nicole Oliver led the team with seven steals.

"I felt like our defensive steals got me back into the game and scoring," Jones said.

The Hokies opened the second half with seven points to build a 38-29 lead.

Spurred by a three-pointer from Jones, the Cougars began to claw back and shortened their deficit to six. The Hokies responded with five
straight points from 6-4 center Ieva Kublina to take a 43-32 lead.

With 10 minutes remaining, the Cougars trimmed the Hokie lead to just eight (45-37). A comeback was highlighted by a three-pointer from
freshman Shondra Bush to pull the Cougars within one point. 

The Cougars' momentum was quickly snatched away as back-to-back three-pointers by Virginia Tech's Sarah Hicks helped the Hokies build
another sizeable advantage (54-45).

Keyed by two Oliver steals, the Cougars began yet another comeback. Jones capitalized on the turnovers with six unanswered points. With 3:50
remaining, freshman Shondra Bush nailed a three-pointer to tie the game at 58. Seconds later, Jones hit a three to give Houston its first lead of
the second half, 61-58.

With 12 seconds remaining in regulation, the Cougars clung to a 63-61 lead. Hokie Lisa Guarneri drove the lane and hit a lay-up to send the
game to overtime.

The overtime period was a back-and-forth battle. Jones and senior Valerie Muoneke made back-to-back lay-ups to give the Cougars a four-point
lead. Hicks answered with a three-pointer. With two minutes left, Bush hit her fourth three-pointer to push the lead to four.

With 1:36 left, Virginia Tech's Nicole Jones hit two free throws to bring the Hokies within two points. Jones responded with three quick points.
With 19 seconds left, the Cougars led by three. Two free throws from junior Angela Curl sealed the win.

The Cougars move to the WNIT championship game Wednesday night against Oregon, which defeated Michigan State 65-54 in the semifinals.

Houston has matched the school record for wins in a season. The team's 26 wins tie the mark set by the 1977-78 squad. Their .818 winning
percentage is the best in the team's 27-year history.

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