Huskies' Comeback Falls Short Against SMSU, 104-87

March 26, 2001

AP Sports Writer

SPOKANE, Wash. - She wowed them in the West. Now Jackie Stiles isheaded back to Missouri to the biggest stage of all.

With a lot of help from her friends - especially Tara Mitchem - Stilesbrought Southwest Missouri State to St. Louis and the women's Final Four with a104-87 victory over Washington Monday night in the West Regional final.

Southwest Missouri State (29-5) will play Purdue in the semifinals Mondaynight in St. Louis, just a 3 1/2-hour drive from the Lady Bears' Springfieldcampus.

Stiles scored 32 points despite sitting out 4 1/2 minutes early in the secondhalf and fouling out with 3:25 to play. As she left the court, she drew astanding ovation from the capacity crowd of just under 11,000, nearly all ofthem Washington fans.

The 5-foot-8 dynamo - the leading scorer in women's NCAA Division I history- led the Lady Bears to their second Final Four and first since 1992.

Stiles scored 73 points in her two games in Spokane to become the firstwoman to top 1,000 in a season in Division I.

She isn't the only blonde, ponytailed big-time sharpshooter for SMS. Mitchemscored 23 points on 7-for-7 shooting, three of them 3-pointers,and 6-of-6 freethrows.

Southwest Missouri State shot 63 percent from the field (35-for-56),including 8-of-15 3-pointers in its biggest offensive game of the season.

Erika Rante added 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Lady Bears. Loree Paynescored 17 for Washington (22-10), including three 3-pointers. Kellie O'Neilladded 14, while Megan Franza, Andrea Lalum and LeAnn Sheets each scored 12.

Washington, the No. 6 seed, trailed by as many as 20 in the first half andwas down 51-33 at the break.

Stiles missed a layup and drew her fourth foul during a 14-1 Huskies' runthat cut the lead to 63-54 on Payne's 15-footer with 13:16 to play.

With Stiles on the bench, the Lady Bears scored the next 10 points,including 3-pointers by Mitchem and Morgan Hohenberger, to boost the lead 73-54with 11:31 remaining.

Stiles came back at the 9:46 mark, promptly made a 12-footer and a 3-pointerand the lead stretched to 23.

After Stiles fouled out with her team leading 92-75, the Huskies cut it to92-80 on Franza's two free throws with 2:33 to play, and were down 94-85 onPayne's 3-pointer with 1:20 to go.

But that's as close as it got.

Southwest Missouri State is the only Final Four team that didn't play itsfirst two tournament games at home. SMS beat Rutgers in Piscataway, N.J.,before traveling across the continent to Spokane.

After a few minutes of struggle, Southwest Missouri State shredded theHuskies' trademark 1-2-2 zone defense.

Stiles, who had 19 by halftime, scored on the opening layup, then sank a3-pointer during an early 12-1 run that put the Lady Bears up 21-12 with 11:24left in the first half.

Moments later, she scored the first nine in an 11-2 outburst that gaveSouthwest Missouri State a 36-21 lead 6:21 before halftime.

Mitchem's 17-footer ignited a 9-1 spurt that gave the Lady Bears theirbiggest lead of the first half, 49-29. Stiles sank the last of her threefirst-half 3-pointers during the run, which was capped by two free throws byKinga Kiss 1:40 before the break.

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