HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - After digging out from under a 16-point first-half deficit, the North Texas women saw their season end in exhausting, heart-breaking fashion in Friday's opening round of the Sun Belt Tournament in an 80-74 double-overtime loss to Louisiana-Lafayette.
The Mean Green got double-double performances from freshman Alexis Hyder, who had a season-high 25 points, freshman Loryn Goodwin, who had 14 points and 10 boards, and senior Sara Stanley, who ended her career with a 10-point, 10-rebound effort. But North Texas - with three starters fouling out - could not survive the stamina-shattering marathon into which the second half and overtime periods evolved. The Mean Green relied on six players for the majority of the game, while Lafayette used just seven players.
Lafayette (3-17 in Sun Belt play and 10-20 on the year) held for a last shot in regulation and North Texas did so in overtime, but neither possession resulted in a good scoring opportunity. In both overtime periods, North Texas (10-10, 11-19) opened a four-point lead but critical turnovers opened the door for the Cajuns.
In the second OT, the Mean Green opened a 70-66 lead, but lost Hyder to a fifth foul in the process. The Cajuns drew even at the free-throw line,got a clutch three from Keke Veal for a 73-70 lead with 1:38 left, and iced the game with four-of-four free-shooting in the final minute.
Laura McCoy also scored in double figures for North Texas with 13 points and added four steals.
After opening a 4-0 lead, North Texas was stunned by a barrage of three-point field goals that sent ULL on 8-0 and 9-0 runs, putting the Cajuns up 19-6. The lead reached a bloated 16 points at 27-11 as ULL hit six of its first 11 three-point attempts while the Mean Green appeared completely out of sync on both ends of the court.
But that lead and the momentum it was built on didn't survive to halftime. ULL cooled, North Texas turned up the defensive pressure, and the Mean Green offense caught fire.
A three by Goodwin cut the gap to 11, a steal by Laura McCoy led to free throws to make it a seven-point game, and a pair of free throws by Stanley drew North Texas within four at 29-25. Desiree Nelson then tied the game at 29-29 with a four-point play, hitting a three, drawing a foul, and making the free throw. Hyder gave North Texas the lead, 31-30, and McCoy added a three to send the Mean Green to a 34-32 halftime advantage and help lift the North Texas shooting percentage from a formerly miserable 14 percent to a respectable 39 percent.
But neither team could generate consistent offense in the second half. Both teams shot under 30 percent from the field in the second half, combining to his just 15 of 53 shots. North Texas had a five-point lead at 42-37 before the Cajuns drew even. A McCoy three made it 51-47, but again ULL drew even.
In the first overtime, North Texas opened a four-point lead only to lose the lead as they turned the ball over in the final minute to allow a game-tying layup with 33.8 seconds to play.