| MESSAGE BOARD
REGION: East SEED: 3
COACH: Joe Curl CONFERENCE: American
Road to the Final Four ...................................................................................
This season, C-USA teams have packed a big punch offensively, and opponents should try to pull away early from Houston. If not, watch out. The Cougars are the type of team that, if the score is close, has a chance of winning down the stretch simply because they have Chandi Jones on their side. Houston won't out-defend you, but the Cougars will outscore you, and Jones has the ability to take over the final 2-3 minutes of a game. Like Swoopes, Stiles and Mazzante, Jones is a proven star who can be a legitimate scoring machine. And Curl knows it and doesn't try to overcoach. Also, Houston is very good at putting the ball in the hands of their scorer.
|PLAYER TO WATCH|
For the past few years, Houston fans have been adamant that Jones should be mentioned in the same breath as Kelly Mazzante or the nation's other more well known scorers. And they're right. And we have to say it's about time Jones' season will end where it should -- in the NCAA Tournament with the whole nation getting a chance to see her play. Jones, a three-time C-USA Player of the Year, ranked fourth in the nation in scoring during the regular season (22.0 ppg) and on Feb. 15 became the league's all-time scoring leader with more than 2,500 career points. Jones, who tied her career high with 39 points on Feb. 8 and dropped in 36 in the C-USA final, has scored in double figures in all 132 games of her college career.
ANALYSIS BY ESPN'S STACEY DALES-SCHUMAN
After winning fewer than 10 games for four straight seasons, the Cougars have authored a 45-21 record the last two seasons while making back-to-back WNIT appearances under Joe Curl, ESPN.com's Coach of the Year. This season, Houston has only continued to improve, and at the close of February wrested the conference's regular-season title away from the two-time defending champion TCU Horned Frogs.
The biggest catalyst behind the change? Gifted senior shooting guard Chandi Jones.
Jones is an exasperating scorer who captured the national scoring title as a junior. This season, she has averaged 22 points a game with quick footwork, heads-up decision-making and pure, unbridled determination to get to the basket and finish. This well-conditioned, 35-minute gamer is one for the record books.
Some talented junior college transfers -- dynamic point guard Joann Overstreet and 6-foot-4 athletic prodigy Sancho Lyttle -- also have made a significant difference this season for Houston. The addition of these two players alone has made Houston's overall team cohesiveness better than ever. Overstreet leads the team with four assists per game and a thrilling defense that screams intensity. Lyttle explodes for nine rebounds every match while accurately contributing 16 points.
Houston is a team that loves to score near the hoop. The Cougars take just 14 3-pointers a game with an accuracy of just 31 percent. Opponents must slow down the Cougars in transition, force them to play an outside game and, perhaps most importantly, block out. Houston is averaging an extraordinary 16 offensive boards per game, which inevitably generates second-chance points and the great intangible, momentum.
One area of concern for Houston has to be the fact that it averages 17 turnovers to just 13 assists. There is no room for error or loss of possession in tournament competition, and Houston therefore must take extra special care of the basketball.
If one thing's for certain, be prepared to witness a baseline-to-baseline race featuring one of the fastest teams in women's hoops.