LAFAYETTE, La. (12/18/08) Shanice Stephens and the North Texas women’s basketball team introduced the Sun Belt and Louisiana-Lafayette to “94-Feet of Heat” in a 57-56 win over the Ragin’ Cajuns on Thursday.
Her mantra from day one, NT’s first year head coach used some potent offense to vault the Mean Green (5-5, 1-0 Sun Belt) out to a 37-24 halftime lead and hung on to beat the Cajuns (2-9, 0-1 Sun Belt) with a pair of key defensive stands.
After UL’s Mercedes Johnson hit a runner with just over a minute remaining to give the Cajuns their first lead of the game, Amber Jackson responded just seconds later to put NT back on top 57-56.
Tricia Lee pulled out the game’s biggest hustle play when she dove for a loose ball on a UL inbounds play to give the Mean Green the possession with 26 seconds remaining, and Jackson came up with another big steal to ice the game.
The reigning Sun Belt Player of the Week, Jackson led the Mean Green with 20 points and 12 rebounds for her seventh straight double-double. No Mean Green player since NT Hall-of-Famer Clara Campbell in 1985-86 had more consecutive double-doubles.
The Mean Green gave the Cajuns little room to operate in the opening minutes. NT held Louisiana off the scoreboard for the game’s first 6:32, and jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead.
The Cajuns responded with a run of their own before Mansa El got loose. The freshman exploded for eight straight points on a pair of 3-pointers and cutting layup to put NT up 24-12 with just under eight minutes to play in the first.
El led all scorers with eight points at the half, and NT went into the break on top 37-24.
As strong as the Mean Green was to open the game, the Ragin’ Cajuns were equal to the task to open the second. It took NT over four minutes to score, and Louisiana cut the North Texas lead to just a point on a Whitney Dunlap 3-pointer.
The Mean Green committed just five turnovers in the first half, but couldn’t find the handle in the second. The Cajuns turned 14 second half NT turnovers into 14 points to close the gap in the final minutes.
North Texas returns home Saturday night to face another squad from the Pelican state, New Orleans, at the Super Pit. Tip off is scheduled for 2:00 p.m.