|Houston's ShaRonda Lasseter puts up a shot over Tulane's Kelly Scanlon (13) in the first half of their semifinal game at the Conference USA tournament Sunday, March 4, 2001, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)|
AP Sports Writer
MILWAUKEE (AP) - The crowd was sparse but Janell Burse got a rousing ovation nonetheless.
"I've never seen a player get a standing ovation when she walked into the locker room. She got one tonight,'' Tulane coach Lisa Stockton said after Burse led the second-seeded Green Wave into the Conference USA championship with a 78-74 semifinal victory over Houston on Sunday night. Burse scored 33 points and pulled down 16 rebounds. Her final basket was a key breakaway with 1:48 left that sparked a 6-0 run after the Lady Cougars had pulled to 68-67.
"Just to win,'' Burse said. "That's all I kept thinking about.'' The Green Wave (21-9) will face Cincinnati in the championship Monday night at U.S. Cellular Arena. The fifth-seeded Bearcats (22-9) reached the title game with a 65-52 victory over De Paul. After Monet Sykes' 3-pointer pulled the third-seeded Lady Cougars (19-12) to 68-67 with 1:56 left, Burse scored on a fastbreak and Houston never recovered.
Teana McKiver scored at 1:22, Burse hit 1-of-2 foul shots and Taryn Turnbull was 1-for-2 from the line for a 74-67 lead with 49 seconds left. Jessica Shanklin, who had 19 points for Houston, sank two shots and two free throws in the final 35 seconds. Her two free throws with 8.3 seconds made it 77-74.
But Gwen Slaughter got behind the defense for a long pass and was fouled as she pulled away from the basket to dribble out the clock. She hit a free throw with 2.4 seconds left for the final margin. "That was a battle. We were very fortunate to be able to keep the lead,'' Stockton said. Sykes finished with 19 points and ShaRonda Lasseter added 14 for Houston.
"It was a great game,'' Houston coach Joe Curl said. "They are strong and big. When the buzzer blew, the better team probably won. But our kids really competed and had a chance to win.'' The game was tied at 62 when the Green Wave took control with a 6-0 run sparked by McKiver, who had two free throws and a put-back basket. McKiver finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
The Lady Cougars, who beat Memphis on Saturday for their first victory in the 5-year-old Conference USA postseason tournament, took a 36-35 halftime lead when Nicole Oliver made one of two free throws after stealing the ball with 12.3 seconds left.
The crowd of 1,414 was thinned by one in the first half when a rowdy fan was ejected for tossing trash onto the court while objecting to a call.