NEW ORLEANS, La. (3/4/02) The North Texas women’s basketball team (21-7) handed Western Kentucky (16-13) an 84-52 loss in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament semifinals on Monday, leaving the Lady Eagles just one victory away from winning the league tournament and capturing an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Lady Eagles held Western Kentucky scoreless for the first 5:27 of the game as it jumped out to a double figure lead early and never looked back. North Texas grabbed a 12-2 advantage at the 13:37 mark of the first half before the Lady Toppers went on a 7-2 run to cut the Lady Eagles lead back to just five points, 14-9, with 12:30 left in the first half. However, North Texas went on an 11-2 run over the next 3:11 to take a 25-11 lead. UNT never led by less than 10 points the rest of the game as it took a 40-22 advantage into the locker room at halftime and outscored the Lady Toppers 44-30 in the second half.
Three North Texas players scored in double figures to lead North Texas, including Nicole Thomas’ season-high 23 points. The senior guard, who was held without a single three-point basket in the Lady Eagles last game and for the first time in 27 outings, nailed four against Western Kentucky.
Senior forward Jalie Mitchell recorded her second double-double of the season and fourth of her career with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Mitchell’s 11 rebounds ties her career high. Vilma Grismanauskaite also chipped in 11 points and five rebounds to help the Lady Eagles cause.
North Texas outrebounded Western Kentucky, 44-37, and only turned the ball over 11 times in comparison to 22 Lady Toppers turnovers. The Lady Eagles hit 44 percent of their shots, while WKU ended up with a .339 field goal percentage.
North Texas improved to 21-7 on the season, giving the Lady Eagles the most wins in school history and ensuring them of the school’s best record ever. Prior to the 2001-02 season, the most wins by a North Texas team was 20, picked up in the 1998-99 and 1985-86 seasons. UNT’s previous best record was 20-8, set in 1998-99.
North Texas will play FIU in the Finals tomorrow at 3 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on Fox Sports South/Southwest. Florida International is the No. 1 seed out of the East Division, while North Texas is the No. 1 West Division seed.
Postgame Quotes (3-4-02):
North Texas Head Coach Tina Slinker
“We are certainly very excited about the win. I just think our defense played a key factor and I just felt like our team was very focused. Nicole stepped up today, yesterday it was Shannan, so we feel like we are really playing well at the right time”
“We were really concerned about Western Kentucky because of the program and the players that they have, so I’m very pleased with our performance today.”
“The main thing for us is getting to the championship game, but it is always nice for us to break records, especially with this group of girls.”
“I knew that I had to step up and hit some big shots. Once we got our focus, we really played well.”
“I was just shooting the ball and not really trying to think about how many points I had.”