NEW ORLEANS, La. (3/2/02) - Shannan Stephenson scored a team-high 27 points, including a career-high five three pointers, to lead the Lady Eagles past New Orleans (11-18) 75-49 in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament at Lakefront arena. North Texas (20-7) advances to the semifinals, where they will meet the winner of the Western Kentucky-South Alabama game.
“We felt like our defense was going to be the difference today,” said North Texas head coach Tina Slinker. “I thought Shannan had a tremendous offensive game and Angel Lewis gave us a real spark off the bench. Rebounding was such a key and I think the way they stayed with us on the boards is why they gave us such a great game.”
The Lady Eagles raced out to an 8-0 lead in the first four minutes of the game, but the Privateers fought their way back with an 8-4 run over the next three minutes to cut the North Texas advantage to 12-8. Stephenson paced the Lady Eagles with 12 first half points as North Texas held a 25-21 lead at the break.
Stephenson came out firing in the second half, knocking down three shots beyond the arc over a span of one minute and 50 seconds and sparking an 11-4 run that extended the North Texas lead to 36-25 to begin the second half. Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year Jalie Mitchell, who was held to just two points in the first half, scored 13 in the second half to finish with 15 for the game. The Lady Eagles saw their lead grow to 43-27 before the Privateers made one last run to cut the lead to 46-32 with 10 minutes remaining. However, the strong play of Lewis ignited a 19-7 North Texas run that put the Lady Eagles in command for good. Lewis finished with nine points, all in the second half, and five rebounds.
“I just knew that we needed to pick things up offensively,” said Stephenson. “They were really pressuring our guards and leaving our high post. They (UNO) wanted the post to step up and score and we knew that’s what we had to do”.
Defensively, the Lady Eagles held the Privateers to just 25 percent shooting for the game. North Texas shot 49 percent for the game, but the Lady Eagles hit 60 percent of their shots in the second half. North Texas also tied a season high with nine three pointers made.
The victory now gives the Lady Eagles 20 wins on the season, tying the most wins in school history. It also marks just the third time in school history that North Texas has reached the 20-win plateau. North Texas can break the school record for wins Monday in the semifinals.