Women advance to WNIT
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
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
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
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
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