HONOLULU, Hawai'i - The Lady Cougars hit the first basket of the game and never trailed in the entire contest, as the University of Houston opened up the Ala Moana Hotel Paradise Classic here with a 73-60 win over Eastern Washington. The Lady Cougars are now 5-4 on the season while EWU drops to 3-5.
Once senior ShaRonda Lasseter hit a short jumper 11 seconds into the contest, the Lady Cougars had the lead they would never relinquish. Paced by freshman Chandi Jones' 12 first-half points, the Lady Cougars bolted out to an impressive 46-29 halftime lead. Jones would lead all scorers with 20 points, while posting a double-double with 13 rebounds.
Riding the wave of a 50 percent (18-36) shooting performance in the opening stanza, the Lady Cougars virtually put the game out of reach as the first-half clock wound down. Nursing a 30-27 lead with 3:26 in the half, Houston closed with a 16-2 run fueled by the exploits of the Lady Cougars' outstanding freshman, Jones. Jones nailed back-to-back jumpers to increase the UH lead to seven, and then nailed a pair of free throws to increase the margin to nine.
Senior Monet Sykes took over from there, going four-of-four from the line to give the Lady Cougars their 17-point cushion heading into intermission. Sykes also posted a double-double on the evening, scoring 17 points and pulling down 10 rebounds.
In the second half the Lady Cougars continued their dominance of the Eagles, storming out of the locker room and increasing their lead to a game-high 26, 63-37, with 13:36 left in the contest. As UH head coach Joe Curl emptied his bench late in the game, Eastern Washington sliced into the Lady Cougar lead, eventually cutting it to 12 (66-54) at the eight-minute mark. The Lady Cougars held on for their 13-point victory.
The Lady Cougars shot 41 percent on the evening, but despite playing in the tropics, UH was ice cold from beyond the arc (2-11, 18%). The Houston defense stepped up, forcing 24 Eastern Washington turnovers and holding the Eagles to only 36 % (23-64) shooting from the field. The Lady Cougars won the rebounding advantage by one, 46-45.
Next up for the Lady Cougars is Detroit Mercy in the second round
of the tournament. Tip off time is 10 p.m. Central Standard Time.