HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (3/07/09) The North Texas women’s basketball team made a furious late rally, but simply ran out of time in a 67-63 loss to Denver in the Sun Belt Tournament quarterfinals on Saturday night.
North Texas (11-20) outscored the Pioneers 20-2 in the final three minutes and change, and made things scary in the game’s closing seconds by narrowing the Pioneer (16-14) lead to just three points with just over five seconds remaining. Mansa El hit a huge 25-foot 3-pointer after a Pioneer turnover, but DU’s Britteni Rice nailed a free throw to ice the game with 0.3 on the clock.
North Texas struck first out of the gate with a Tricia Lee 3-pointer, but shooting woes slowed the Mean Green from then on. NT missed its next 17 shots after Lee’s dagger, and a potent Pioneer (16-14) offense went to work. North Texas shot just 32.3 percent on the day, countered by Denver’s 56.5 percent.
Jo Hall was a sparkplug for NT all day, and was named the North Texas Player of the Game by the Sun Belt Conference. The senior led North Texas with 17 points and a game-high four steals.
The Mean Green had few answers for the Denver combination of Kaetlyn Murdoch and Britteni Rice. The inside-out duo tallied 15 points each and combined to go 11-of-18 (61.1 percent) from the floor. Murdoch was named the Sun Belt Freshman of the Year this week, and was also named the Player of the Game for the Pioneers.
North Texas came out of the locker room on a mission to start the second half. Brittney James hit a 3-point play and a renewed defensive intensity forced a couple of clutch Denver turnovers. The Mean Green scored five straight points in the first minute of play to bring NT back to within six points at 32-26.
But Murdoch subdued the Mean Green run by notching a double-double after just 25 minutes of play. The versatile DU forward was seemingly in on every play, and finished the game with 12 rebounds and three blocks to go with her 15 points.
Denver dominated the glass with a 41-28 edge in rebounds, but a tenacious North Texas defense turned 26 Pioneer turnovers into 26 points.