HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (3/6/10) - For the second straight year 94-Feet of Heat has shocked the Sun Belt Tournament. The No. 10 seeded North Texas women's basketball team used a second-half rally to knock off No. 7 FIU, 61-51, for its second opening round win in as many years.
Down by as many as 12 points, North Texas (9-21) rallied back with a 40-point second half that saw the Mean Green hit 88 percent of its free throws to seal the game. Great perimeter defense forced FIU (14-16) to shoot 2-of-23 (8.7 percent) from beyond the arc, while NT's Caitlin Hawkins nailed 3-of-4 from deep for a career-high 11 points.
North Texas will now take on No. 2 seed Middle Tennessee Sunday at 2:15 p.m. on the Summit Arena floor.
NT was 2-19 this year when trailing at the half, but an energetic effort in the closing frame put North Texas into the tournament quarterfinals. Denetra Kellum led the way for NT with 17 points and eight boards, while Jasmine Godbolt matched Hawkins' effort with 11 points.
FIU missed seven of their first eight 3-point attempts, but NT couldn't capitalize on the FIU mistakes. NT went over seven minutes without a bucket in the opening frame falling behind by as many as 12. NT shot just 27.6 percent in the first, but the 3-ball kept things close for the Mean Green.
Hawkins hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the first half, sending NT into the break down five points. The Golden Panthers had led by as much as 12 points and blocked six NT shots in the opening frame.
North Texas came out of the halftime break on fire, taking the lead on a pair of Kellum free throws with just under 18 minutes left on the clock after a 9-2 NT run.
Godbolt got the NT bench fired up when she hit a tough layup while getting driven to the hardwood. The Sun Belt Freshman of the Year got in her teammates faces with a hearty yell before hitting the ensuing free throw. That effort once again gave NT the lead at 33-31 with 15 minutes remaining.
Only a minute later she would do the exactly same thing after a wheel route in the lane, pushing the lead to 36-32.
With eight minutes on the clock Kellum stretched the lead to four with an open look from beyond the left 3-point line. Hudson and the Mean Green put their foot on the accelerator, hitting a fast break layup to make it 46-40 with six minutes remaining.