University of Houston teammates Nicole Oliver (44) and Chandi Jones (13) celebrate a three point shot that tied the game at 54 points against TCU in the second half. Houston won, 76-71. (AP Photo/Aaron M. Sprecher)
Feb. 27, 2004
HOUSTON - It was quite prophetic when TCU head coach Jeff Mitty's 2003 Conference USA championship ring went sailing across the floor of the University of Houston's Hofheinz Pavilion with 3:38 left to play Friday night.
The Lady Cougars won the 2003-04 Conference USA championship from the two-time defending champions with a 76-71 victory over their intrastate rival in front of 3,283 fans, the fourth largest crowd to ever watch a Lady Cougar game.
Houston, ranked 14th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and 17th by AP, trailed by as many as 12 points before outscoring the Horned Frogs 42-28 in the second half.
Houston's comeback included an 18-4 run midway throught the second period after trailing 43-34 at halftime.
Senior Nicole Oliver drained a three-pointer from the left wing with 9:36 to play in the game to tie the score at 54 and then sank two free throws with 9:07 to play, giving Houston its first lead of the game.
All American candidate Chandi Jones, who leads C-USA in scoring, scored a game-high 26 points in her final regular season home game to cap her four-year collegiate career at UH. Jones, who has scored in double figures during every game of her collegiate career, began the second half hitting her first two shots after making just two of her 10 field goal attempts in the first half.
"To win the championship in front of our fans and against a team like TCU is great," Jones said. "I got a placque for leading the nation in scoring last year, but that doesn't compare to getting a championship ring."
The Horned Frogs were led by Sandora Irvin's 21 points, 19 rebounds and seven blocks. Kim Ortega added 17 points for TCU while Tiffany Evans added 10 points.
In addition to Jones' 26 points, Sancho Lyttle added 14 points for Houston and Oliver finished with 10. Daphne Andre added nine points off the bench for the Lady Cougars while KiKi Harris added six points and eight rebounds.
Houston closed out the regular season with its ninth consecutive Conference USA win for the first time in school history to defeat the two-time C-USA defending champions.
The Lady Cougars will travel to Fort Worth and play in the Conference USA Tournament next Friday when Houston tries to win its first C-USA Tournament title.
"We don't want to limit ourselves to just winning a conference regular season championship," Houston head coach Joe Curl said. "We have our sights set on trying to win a NCAA Championship. Why not us? Why not now?"