HOUSTON (Jan. 7) -- What a difference a millennium can make. It's only been a week into the year 2000 and the University of Houston women's basketball team has already won three of its last four games.
Friday evening in Hofheinz Pavilion was perhaps the Lady Cougars' best yet. The Houston women used a smothering defense in the second-half to spark a 53-52, come-from-behind Conference USA win over visiting Saint Louis. UH held the Billikens to just 18 second-half points on 24 percent shooting while forcing 13 turnovers to claim its second win in a row and third victory in its last four games.
The Lady Cougars now have a chance to make it four-out-of-five with another upcoming home game against UNC Charlotte on Sunday, January 9, in part two of the team's C-USA weekend homestand. Before he would look ahead however, UH head coach Joe Curl said he was still looking for a more polished performance from his second Lady Cougar team.
"It's always good to win but we still need to be a lot sharper in some areas," Curl said Friday after the victory. "We were tied late in the first half, but had a lapse that should not have happened. Next thing we know its halftime and we're in the locker-room down by eight.
"We made some adjustments, played a better second half and worked our way back like at UTEP," Curl explained, recalling a similar comeback win by UH at Texas-El Paso just three days before. "I was glad we we're able to stay focused and get more physical when the play started getting more physical. We played very good at times. I just want us to play better on a more consistent basis. We made some plays when we had to and about all we could do after that was hang-on."
And hang-on the Lady Cougars did.
Houston took the lead when junior forward Monet Sykes hit a 10-foot jumper with four seconds left, breaking a tie and putting Houston ahead 53-51. Sykes had a chance to make the margin three points after getting fouled on the basket, but she couldn't convert the free throw on the three-point play and the Billikens grabbed the defensive rebound.
With an outlet pass Saint Louis senior guard Many Lueking drove in the Houston paint and drew a two-shot foul with 00:00.01 (one one-hundredth of a second) left in regulation. Lueking, the Billikens' leading scorer and an 81.1 percent free throw shooter, hit the first free-throw to make it 53-52 and then missed the second. She and forward Christan Shelton co-led SLU in scoring on the night with 12 points.
UH junior forward Cathy Lida led all players with a career-high 21 points as UH improved to 4-8 overall and 1-1 in C-USA action. Sykes had seven total points and a team-high seven rebounds in 15 minutes of action. The Billikens fell to 7-6 on the season and 0-2 in conference. The Lady Cougars will next face league foe UNC Charlotte on Sunday, January 9. Tipoff will be at 2:00 p.m. in Hofheinz Pavilion.
Women's Basketball Linescore Saint Louis Billikens 34 18 -- 52 Houston Lady Cougars 26 27 -- 53 Scoring Leaders UH: Cathy Lida 21; SLU: Christan Shelton, Mandy Lueking 12; Season Records Houston (4-8, 1-1); Saint Louis (7-6, 0-2)