March 7, 2004
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - Chandi Jones was obviously paying attention to her coach's pep talk.
Jones scored 24 of her 36 points in the second half, and No. 11 Houston beat No. 16 TCU 86-75 Sunday to win the Conference USA tournament title and earn its first trip to the NCAA tournament in 12 years.
The senior guard scored just two points in the first 12 minutes before Houston coach Joe Curl told Jones to be more aggressive offensively. She responded with 34 points in the final 28 minutes.
"Coach got on me," Jones said. "He told me to step up my game. Sometimes I need that to motivate me."
Playing in its first conference championship game, Houston (27-3) won its 12th straight overall.
TCU (24-6) was making its third appearance in the conference title game in four seasons. Despite the loss, the Lady Frogs will probably receive an at-large berth into the NCAA tournament.
Jones, the tournament MVP, scored 81 points in three games. She had 14 points after halftime in Houston's semifinal win over Marquette.
"A true sign of greatness is patience, and I see that in her," said Curl, whose team set a school record for wins in a season.
TCU's Sandora Irvin scored 20 points and grabbed 16 rebounds for her 13th straight double-double. Ebony Shaw had 11 points, and Adrianne Ross added 10 for the Lady Frogs.
The Lady Cougars led 52-36 early in the second half before the Lady Frogs sliced the lead to 57-55 with just less than 10 minutes remaining.
But Jones, who scored in double figures in her 112th consecutive game, started a 12-2 run with short jumper. She also finished the spurt with a three-point play to give Houston a 69-57 advantage with 7:14 left.
"Chandi goes for the kill," TCU coach Jeff Mittie said. "She's got some Michael Jordan in her. She'll let others score early before taking control."
Irvin's layup brought TCU to 76-71 with 2:05 left, but Houston hit eight of 10 free throws down the stretch.
"A true sign of greatness is patience, and I see that in her."
- Coach Joe Curl
The Lady Frogs, who were playing on their home floor, lost to the Lady Cougars for the third time this season.
"They cut down the nets on our floor," Shaw said. "That was tough to watch."
Jones scored 13 points in a 3:25 stretch as the Lady Cougars turned a one-point lead into a 16-point cushion two minutes into the second half.
Houston went on an 8-0 surge over the final 1:25 of the first half to take a 43-34 halftime lead. Jones then hit three straight 3-pointers in the first two minutes of the second half.
TCU was just 9-of-32 from the floor in the first half, but stayed close by
hitting all 15 of its free throws.