Tulane wins third consecutive C-USA tourney
Updated: Tuesday March 06, 2001 2:57 AM
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Once she gets to the postseason, there's just no denying Tulane's Sarah Goree.
The junior guard knows nothing but winning championships after scoring 18 points to lead the Green Wave to a 63-50 victory against Cincinnati on Monday.
It's the third consecutive Conference USA Tournament title for Goree and her teammates, who started their title reign with a 58-44 victory against Cincinnati in the 1999 championship game.
Second-seeded Tulane (22-9) earned the conference's automatic NCAA tournament bid. Fifth-seeded Cincinnati (22-9) and top-seeded Louisville, upset by DePaul in the quarterfinals, are hoping for at-large berths.
"It's a tremendous feeling and Sarah's never been to a conference tournament and not won it," said Tulane head coach Lisa Stockton, who has a 13-2 all-time record in the Conference USA Tournament. "It wasn't a pretty game, but we just got some confidence and our defense in the last five minutes was tremendous."
The Green Wave overcame a horrible first half to win for the seventh time in eight games. Leading 45-44 with 4:40 to play, Tulane scored 13 consecutive points. The spurt, sparked by Teana McKiver's three-point play, also featured a 3-pointer by Goree and seven free throws.
The Bearcats managed only one field goal in the final 4:40. They were outscored 18-6 during the span.
McKiver added 16 points and Britt Themann had 15 for Tulane.
Valerie King, who had six 3-pointers, led the Bearcats with 22 points and was voted the tournament's most valuable player, scoring 92 points in four games. K.B. Sharp, also named to the all-tournament team, had 16 points.
Both teams struggled offensively in the first half. Tulane shot just 12 percent (4-of-33). Cincinnati doubled that percentage at 24 (7-of-29) but managed only a 19-17 lead.
The frustrated Green Wave didn't score a field goal in the final 14:55 of the first half after grabbing a 13-7 lead on three 3-pointers by Goree, all within a span of 2:20.
"I don't have an explanation for the first half," Stockton said. "We played as bad as we possibly can in the first half and we were still in it. We were getting the shots. I guess it was contagious."
Tulane finished at 31 percent (18-58) from the floor and Cincinnati 28 percent (17-60). The Green Wave had a 49-39 rebounding edge.
"We were counting on some misses and some rebounding," Cincinnati head coach Laurie Pirtle said. "But they could score with so many weapons."
The Green Wave offset King's brilliance by matching the Bearcats with eight 3-pointers -- four by Goree and three by Themann.
"They just had some people step up and hit some big shots at the end," King said.
Also voted to the all-tourney team were Tulane's Janell Burse, who had 14 rebounds in the title game; DePaul's Lenae Williams; and Houston's Monet Sykes.