NEW ORLEANS, La. (3/5/02) The North Texas women’s basketball team (21-8) dropped a 66-49 decision to No. 25 Florida International (26-5) Tuesday afternoon in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship game.
Virtue of winning the Sun Belt Conf. Tournament, Florida International received an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. North Texas must now look for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, which will be announced Sunday evening. North Texas piled up a school-record 21 wins this season, while six of its eight losses came to opponents that are now ranked among the top-25 teams nationally.
North Texas’ Nicole Thomas hit a three-point shot on the Lady Eagles opening possession of the game, but Florida International scored the next 14 points to open up a double-figure lead that it would hold on to for most of the contest. The Lady Eagles closed the gap to just six points, 27-21, with 2:41 left in the first half, but the Golden Panthers took a 32-23 advantage into halftime. North Texas was unable to get any closer than nine points the entire second half.
The Golden Panthers gave North Texas trouble on the boards the entire game, outrebounding the Lady Eagles 47 to 28. FIU grabbed 19 offensive rebounds and scored the majority of their points in the paint. Post players Cormisha Cotton and Cheryl Moody led FIU with double-double’s. Moody scored a game-high 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, while Cotton scored 15 points and pulled down 11 rebounds as well.
The Lady Eagles, who shot 35 percent from the field, didn’t have anyone reach double figures in the scoring column for the first time this season. Thomas scored nine points to lead North Texas, while Jalie Mitchell and Vilma Grismanauskaite finished with eight points each.
The Lady Eagles, who cruised to the finals with double-figure victories over New Orleans and Western Kentucky, had two players named to the all-tournament team. Thomas, who was also named to the 1999 All-Big West Conf. Tournament Team, and Mitchell both made the team. For Mitchell, it was her third all-tournament selection this season.