MOBILE, Ala. (2/28/07) In a defensive slugfest South Alabama outlasted the North Texas women’s basketball team 52-44 in the first round of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament from the Mitchell Center. The Mean Green (9-20) shot a season-low 21 percent from the floor as South Alabama (14-15) led wire-to-wire to advance to the quarterfinals where they will face Middle Tennessee on Saturday.
“For some reason the shots just didn’t fall for us and that’s a credit to South Alabama’s defense, they were tough on us,” said North Texas head coach Tina Slinker. “We missed some easy shots early on and that just seemed to get us out of rhythm”.
The game mirrored the earlier match-up between the two teams as North Texas was forced to play catch-up the entire contest.
Neither team shot the ball well from the floor as the Jaguars held an early 10-9 lead with 7:53 remaining in the first half. A 7-0 keyed by junior Janette Tucker gave the Jaguars a 17-9 lead with 4:33 remaining in the first half.
North Texas freshman Brittney James rallied the Mean Green with six first half points, all free throws, to cut the Jaguar lead to two points at 17-15 with 2:55 left. South Alabama responded with an 8-1 run to close the first half capped off by a jumper by Tucker with three seconds left in the half.
Trailing 30-19 with 15 minutes remaining and the offense sputtering, North Texas went on a 9-0 run to cut lead to two points at 30-28 with 9:34 left. South Alabama went nearly seven minutes without a basket until Whitney Woodard scored to end the drought and the Mean Green run.
Two 3-pointers by Amanda Leonard extended the Jaguar cushion to ten-points at 45-35 with 2:24 left, but North Texas had one final run left.
The Mean Green pulled to within six at 47-41 with 1:05 left. DiDi Wali missed the second of two free throws but grabbed her own miss. Wali missed the offensive put back and Talicia Sanders missed the second opportunity and South Alabama finally corralled the rebound and iced the game from the free throw line.
“That was a critical part of the game at the end,” Slinker said. “We have to take advantage of those opportunities but again you have to give South Alabama credit. They had an answer for every run that we made at them”.
James, a true freshman, led North Texas with 12 points on the night and finished her season with the most point by a Mean Green freshman since the 1998-99 season. Sanders had a season-high 16 rebounds.
“We gave it our all tonight but our shots just were falling,” said James. “We played well on defense but we just couldn’t get the offense going and fell short”.
North Texas was held to a season-low in field goals, shooting percentage, and the second lowest point total of the season with 44.