Ducks Drop Houston to Claim WNIT Title

March 27, 2002

EUGENE, Ore. - Cathrine Kraayeveld scored on a finger-roll layup with 2.4 secondsremaining to give Oregon the Women's NIT championship with a 54-52 victory overHouston on Wednesday night before a season-high 6,835 fans at McArthur Court.

'Cathrine is a sophomore and began the season inexperienced, but now she's playing like a veteran,' first-year Oregon coach Bev Smith said. 'She made the play based on what the defense gave her.'

Kraayeveld, the tournament MVP, led the Ducks (22-13) with 15 points, all inthe second half. She also had 13 rebounds to record her fifth straight double-double and 11th of the season.

'I think the game was typical of our season,' Smith said. 'We had to keep fighting our way back. Defensively, we were there and we kept them to their lowest point total of the season, but offensively we were out of sync and that's a credit to them. They are very athletic.'

Chandi Jones, also named to the all-tournament team, led Houston (26-8) with16 points after hitting just two of nine shots in the first half.

With Shaquala Williams, Oregon's leading scorer, struggling, Houston openeda 43-35 lead midway through the second half. But Oregon came back with a 10-2run that included eight points from Kraayeveld. Williams finished with threepoints.

Houston regained the lead twice in the final three-and-a-half minutes, the last timecoming on a free throw by Jones that made it 50-48 with 1:33 remaining

Oregon came back behind senior sharpshooterJamie Craighead, who hit a 3-pointerto put the Ducks in front 51-50 with 1:20 left. She added a free throw with 48seconds to go to push Oregon's lead to two.

Houston tied the game on an inside back by Valerie Muoneke with 32 secondson the clock.

That set up a potential game-winning 3-pointer by Craighead that missed, going outof bounds off Houston. Oregon then ran the clock down before finding Kraayeveldcutting down the lane for the winning basket.

'This is as good an environment you will have in college basketball,' Houston coach Joe Curl said of 75-year-old McArthur Court. 'The reason I love coming to play here is because of the character of the building.'

Senior guard Edniesha Curry was Oregon's only other double-figure scorer with 11 points, 10 of them coming in the first half of play where both Williams and Kraayeveld were held scoreless.Senior forward Alyssa Fredrick provided a spark off the bench with nine points and four rebounds in 17 minutes, while junior Alissa Edwards contributed three assists, three steals and five rebounds in a reserve role.

Williams shot just 1-of-13 from the field, including 1-of-11 from 3-point range, but dished out a team-best four assists, three of them after halftime.

'We had three tough consecutive road trips,' Curl said. 'We thought we had enough to get through. My hat's off to Oregon.'

Oregon won the rebounding battle 47-45 -- especially in the second half, where it dominated the glass by a 28-19 advantage.

'We've grown bit by bit,' Smith said. 'It's a process and you can't accelerate that. We changed the starting lineup midway through the season and that takes a mental lag. But, through thick and thin, this team always came back.'

The Ducks ended their season on a five-game winning streak, along with claiming victories in seven of their last eight. Oregon is one of two teams in Division I women's basketball -- the other being the NCAA champion -- to finish its season with a win. Oregon won its 15th overall national championship, which includes all sports, in the university's 125-year history.

All-Tournament Team
Cathrine Kraayeveld, Oregon (MVP)
Shaquala Williams, Oregon
Chandi Jones, Houston
Valerie Muoneke, Houston
Vnemina Reese, Michigan State
Ieva Kublina, Virginia Tech

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