MIAMI, Fla. (1/9/02) The North Texas women’s basketball team (9-6, 3-2) couldn’t hang on to a 20-point second half lead as it suffered a 70-65 loss to a tough Florida International team (13-4, 4-0) on Thursday night in a Sun Belt Conference cross-divisional game.
The loss snapped a two-game winning streak for the Lady Eagles, while an FIU team that received 12 votes in the latest ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll got its fourth consecutive victory and improved to 4-0 in Sun Belt Conference action.
The Lady Eagles held their largest lead of the game at 20 points, 50-30, with 17:05 remaining in the second half, but Florida International went on a 16-3 run to close the gap to just seven points. However, North Texas retook a double-figure lead at that point and held the Golden Panthers in check until the final 5:14 of the game. FIU scored 20 of the games final 26 points, going on a 20-6 run over the final five minutes to garner a five point come-from-behind victory. FIU took its first lead of the game, 64-63, since the 19:43 mark of the first half with 1:13 left in the game.
“We didn’t adjust to their zone and they took our guards out of the game in the second half,” said North Texas head coach Tina Slinker. “We got a little cautious and didn’t attack or get to the free throw line.”
North Texas’ Jalie Mitchell scored 18 of her game-high 20 points in the first half as North Texas built a 44-26 halftime lead. Mitchell became the second all-time leading scorer in North Texas history with the 20-point performance, pushing her total career points to 1,467.
The Lady Eagles hit 55 percent of their shots in the first half, but that total dropped to 18 percent in the second half. FIU on the other hand, improved its shooting from 44 percent in the first half to 51 in the second. FIU junior post Silva Mesa led the Golden Panthers comeback, scoring all nine of her points in the second half. The Lady Eagles, who outrebounded FIU 17 to 12 in the first half, finished the game with five fewer rebounds, 33-38.
North Texas had four players score in double figures. Following Mitchell’s 20-point outing was Nicole Thomas with 13, Shannan Stephenson with 12 and Vilma Grismanauskaite with 11. Thomas became the ninth player in North Texas history to score 900 points in a career, making her the ninth leading scorer in school history with 903 points to her credit.
North Texas returns home for its next game, squaring off against Denver on Jan. 17 at the Super Pit (7 p.m.)