LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Mar. 3) -- Senior Madinah Slaise poured in a game high 29 points and Laura Wilder added 11 points and 11 rebounds to lead Cincinnati to a 65-59 victory over Houston in the opening round of the fifth annual Jewish Hospital Conference USA Women's Basketball Tournament.
Slaise continued her torrid scoring pace with her sixth straight 25 point outing but the Bearcats needed points in the final minute from two unlikely sources to secure the win.
With the game knotted at 56, Tish Perry buried a three-pointer from the left side with 1:30 left to put the Bearcats ahead for good. Candice Roberson built the lead to 61-56 with a pair of free throws with 47 seconds left. Houston rallied to trim the lead to 61-59 but Nikki Groeber made two free throws with 11 seconds left to preserve the win. The points by Groeber and Perry were their only scores of the game.
"I think that in the first half we got away from running the offense the way that we are used to," head coach Laurie Pirtle said. "Give credit to Houston because they took us out of our offense but we were able to regroup at halftime and get back on track."
"The key to tournament time is to win and advance," Pirtle added. "We were able to do that tonight and now we have to concentrate on Tulane."
Cincinnati started the game strong offensively, using 10 of Slaise's 16 first half points to build a 20-9 lead with 9:03 left. Houston rallied to trim the lead to one, 30-29, at the intermission.
The second half saw the game tied five times with eight lead changes before the Bearcats finally took the lead for good on Perry's jumper.
Cincinnati was plagud by foul trouble throughout the game, especially on the interior as Candice Holley, Portia Flournoy and Nikki Groeber eached sat out for portions of both the first and second half because of fouls.
Cincinnati was one of only two higher seeded teams to advance past the first round. South Florida became the first 12th seed in tournament history to get past the first round when it toppled fifth seed DePaul, 82-69. Host Louisville, the sixth seed, fell victim to 11th seed UNC Charlotte, 75-62, and eight seed UAB routed ninth seed Saint Louis, 68-50.
Saturday's quarterfinal pairings have UAB taking on top seed Marquette at 1 p.m. followed by fourth seed Southern Miss against South Florida at 3 p.m. The evening session will feature a 6 p.m. meeting between third seed Memphis and UNC Charlotte followed by Cincinnati against second seed Tulane at 8 p.m.