|Nicole Oliver drives to the hoop.(Photo/Jeff Shaw)|
HOUSTON - It was a big day at Hofheinz Pavilion in Sunday (Feb. 18) afternoon. Not only were the six University of Houston Lady Cougar seniors being honored prior to the team's final home game of the year, Houston was just a half-game behind National division leader Tulane and knew that a victory over visiting DePaul could possibly place them alone in first place.
The game was slow scoring from tip-off as both Houston and DePaul combined for 16 fouls in the first ten minutes of the game. Despite double figures in points from seniors Monet Sykes (11) and Jessica Shanklin (10) in the first half, the Lady Cougars shot just 30 percent from the field and the couldn't contain DePaul's Lenae Williams, who lead the Blue Demons to a 37-28 half-time lead with 16 points, 12 of which came on four three-pointers.
Houston turned it up a notch and took control in the second half, shooting 45 percent from the field and outscoring DePaul in the final twenty minutes, 42-21. Sykes gave the Lady Cougars a 49-48 lead on a two-point jumper with 11:17 remaining and the Houston defense shut down the Blue Demon's offense and held DePaul to only ten points from that point on.
Sykes' career game was the story for the Lady Cougars. She turned in her sixth double-double performance of the year as she nailed nine of her 13 attempted field goals, and five of eight free throw attempts, to come within two points of her career high and finish the afternoon with 23 points. In addition, she pulled down a career-high and Lady Cougar season-high 14 rebounds, including 10 defensively.
Joining Sykes in double figures were Shanklin (18) and fellow seniors ShaRonda Lasseter (13) and Cathy Lida (10). Shanklin, Houston's leading threat outside the arc, made two three-pointers for the ninth straight game and added a team-high six assists.
The win was the first for the Lady Cougars in five meetings against the Blue Demons since the two schools began competing at the start of Conference USA during the 1996-97 season.
With the win the Lady Cougars improve to 17-9 overall on the year and 10-4 in C-USA play. Their 10 wins against C-USA opponents are the most in school history and their 10-2 record at Hofheinz Pavilion this season marks the most home victories since going 13-1 during the 1991-92 campaign.
Houston travels to Edinburg, Texas, to take on UT-Pan American on Tuesday (Feb. 20) night at 7:00pm. They close out the season next weekend with the final two games at Memphis on Friday, February 23 at 7:00pm and at UAB on Sunday, February 25, at 2:00pm.