Women's Hoops Advance To WNIT Final With 65-54 Win Over Michigan State

March 23, 2002

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - The Women's National Invitation Tournament is not the NCAA Tournament.

But it still has a championship game and Oregon will be playing in it thanks to a 65-54 victory against Michigan State in the semifinals.

The Ducks (21-13), who had a string of eight straight NCAA tournament appearances snapped this season, will meet Houston in Eugene Wednesday at 7 p.m. for the WNIT title.

Oregon point guard Shaquala Williams scored 21 points and forward Cathrine Kraayeveld added 16 and 11 rebounds -- her fourth straight double-double -- as the Ducks came back from a seven-point second-half deficit to defeat the Spartans (19-13), who were playing in their third WNIT in the last four seasons.

'At the end of the year, there are only four national champions,' Oregon junior guard Shaquala Williams said. 'Maybe it's not the Big Dance, but it's a start towards what we want to accomplish next year.'

The Ducks finished the regular season tied for sixth place in the Pacific-10 Conference, but remain the women's basketball team from the league still playing in the postseason -- a distinction the Oregon men's basketball team holds as well. Michigan State was the 10th-place team from the Big Ten.

Williams scored 15 of her 21 points on 5-of-10 3-pointers, while Jamie Craighead added 14 points for the Ducks on the strength of four long-range shots. It was the ninth win in 11 games for Oregon, which is playing in the WNIT title game for the second time. They beat San Diego State in 1989 when the tournament was known as the National Women's Invitational Tournament.

Reserve center Kelli Roehrig paced the Spartans with 13, and Syreeta Bromfield and Julie Pagel scored 12 each. But Michigan State couldn't stop Oregon from scoring 40 points in the second half on 54-percent shooting (14-of-26).

The Ducks trailed 34-27 in the opening minutes of the second half before a 17-3 run put them up 44-37 with 13:44 to play. Craighead scored eight of her point during that stretch, though it was a jump shot by Kraayeveld at 14:42 that gave the Oregon its first lead since a 19-15 advantage 10 minutes into the game.

Bromfield tied the game for the Spartans at 47-47 with a 3-pointer at 9:30, but Williams answered with five points in 8-0 run as the Ducks built their advantage back up to 55-47 with 7:44 to play.

Two of those points by Williams came from the line after Bromfield received a technical foul for complaining to the referee after a Williams 3-pointer.

It was the first technical by a player in Spartan head coach Joanne McCallie's two seasons.

'She thought it was a moving screen (that freed Williams),' McCallie said. 'We still could have overcome that foul and I don't think that one play really hurt us.'

Williams disagreed.

'That took the wind out of them,' she said. 'From that point, we pretty much took over the game.'

Michigan State would get as close as 55-51 on two straight baskets by Vnemina Reese, but Craighead hit her third 3-pointer of the half as Oregon pulled away.

Despite shooting just 31 percent (8-for-26) from the floor, being outrebounded 19-10 and turning the ball over nine times, Oregon only trailed 29-25 at halftime.

The Ducks' last lead in the first half was 19-15 at 10:06 on the heels of back-to-back 3-pointers by Williams. But Oregon made only 2-of-12 field goals after that and the Spartans went on a 14-6 run to take a four-point lead into the break.

'We were playing to their strengths in the first half,' Craighead said. 'We tried to attack more in the second half, get them on their heels, and it worked.'

The Spartans shot 46 percent from the floor in the first half but only 31 percent in the second. They turned the ball over 21 times, 10 times in the second half that resulted in 20 Oregon points.

'We are excited to play another game,' said Oregon coach Bev Smith, in only her first season at the Ducks' helm. 'Our team has worked very hard to put us in a position to win an NIT title.'

Wednesday night they get their chance.

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