Sunday, March 17, 2002

UC women gain 1st NCAA tourney win


King takes over in OT vs. St. Peter's

By Chris Dearing
For the Cincinnati Enquirer

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Debbie Merrill goes up against St. Peter's Layla Willis.
(AP photos)
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        COLUMBIA, S.C. — Finally, Cincinnati has won a women's NCAA Tournament game.

        After suffering first-round losses in their two other appearances, the Bearcats broke through with a 76-63 victory in overtime over St.Peter's Saturday night at the Carolina Coliseum in Columbia, S.C.

        “We competed today,” Cincinnati coach Laurie Pirtle said. “My heart goes out to St. Peter's, because the game could have went either way. Finally winning a NCAA Tournament game was important for the kids.”

        The Bearcats, a sixth seed, advance to face No.3 seed South Carolina, which beat No.14 Liberty Saturday night. The game is at 7:35 p.m Monday in the East Regional at Columbia, S.C.

        Cincinnati (27-4) had lost to Bowling Green in 1989 and Oregon in 1999 and looked to be in danger of falling again before Valerie King broke through against the Peahens.

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St. Peter's Lindsay Gonzalez goes up for a shot past UC's K.B. Sharp.
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        King, who went scoreless in the first half, scored 13 of her game-high 24 points in overtime.

        King, who missed her first six shots, opened the overtime period with a three-point play nine seconds in and the Bearcats didn't trail again. Two possessions later, she hit a jumper in the lane with 2:57 remaining for a 64-59 lead.

        “This was a game where it was going to come down to the last person shooting, and thank God it was Valerie King shooting for us,” Pirtle said.

        St. Peter's (25-6) scored the next four points before King scored on another three-point play and then sealed it with a 3-pointer from the left wing to make it 70-63 UC with 1:21 remaining.

        “I was finally glad to hit an outside shot,” King said, laughing. “I never felt any pressure, my shot just wasn't falling.”

        Cincinnati trailed by five points with less than two minutes remaining. Debbie Merrill, the Conference USA freshman of the year, scored on a layup with 1:48 remaining to make it 58-55 and after a steal by King, Merrill got free underneath again to make it 58-57 with 32 seconds remaining.

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Merrill shoots.
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        The Peahens had a chance to take a three-point lead on their next possession, but Lindsey Gonzalez, a 71 percent free throw shooter, made only one of two foul shots with 30 seconds remaining.

        The Bearcats called time out with 22 seconds remaining to set the final play. Point guard K.B. Sharp dribbled as the clock wound down and, after finding King covered, drove down the middle of the lane for a layup with four seconds to play.

        “I knew they would be on Val (King),” Sharp said. “I was going to her if they got picked off or something, so I took it and I hoped to draw a foul. But when I got the shot off, I hoped it just went in.”

        Sharp finished with 19 points.

        King, who had 98 3-pointers this season coming into the game, was only 2-of-12 from behind the arc.

        “I don't think I was playing really hard in the first half and the players and coaches told me to just keep my head up,” King said. “My shot wasn't going down and Laura Wilder told me to just take it to the basket.”

        In the first half, even with King in a funk, The Bearcats still managed to have a led 28-24 advantage at the break. at halftime and King wasn't even on the court for the beginning of used a 17-4 second-half run that gave Cincinnati control. to take control.

        Sharp, who had 10 first-half points, started the run with a 3-pointer from the left wing. Merrill followed with a lay-up. Brittani Young hit a 3-pointer on the next Bearcats possession for a 17-14 lead.

        Sharp and Merrill, who had seven points in the run, combined to score 18 first-half points. The Bearcats shot only 36.7 percent in the first half but forced 11 St. Peter's turnovers on offset the 42.3 percent shooting by the Peahens.

        ST. PETER'S (25-6) — Willis 3-8 0-0 6, Harris 7-17 3-4 17, Seaton 1-4 0-0 2, Porter 3-6 0-0 8, Philip 3-5 0-0 6, Gonzalez 3-6 1-2 7, Barthold 0-0 0-0 0, McDonough 2-3 2-2 7, Quinonez 0-0 0-0 0, Baker 0-0 0-0 0, Leslie 0-0 0-0 0, Cushnie 0-0 0-0 0, Sears 4-19 2-4 10. Totals 26-68 8-12 63.

        CINCINNATI (27-4) — Merrill 6-12 4-4 16, Young 3-5 1-2 8, Wilder 2-3 0-0 4, Sharp 6-13 5-6 19, King 9-23 4-6 24, Alexander 1-4 1-3 3, Flournoy 0-1 0-0 0, Douglass 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 28-64 15-21 76.

        Halftime—Cincinnati 28, St. Peter's 24. End of regulation—St. Peter's 59, Cincinnati 59. 3-Point goals—St. Peter's 3-17 (Porter 2-5, McDonough 1-1, Willis 0-1, Harris 0-2, Gonzalez 0-2, Sears 0-6), Cincinnati 5-19 (Sharp 2-3, King 2-12, Young 1-1, Wilder 0-1, Merrill 0-2). Fouled out—Wilder. Rebounds—St. Peter's 43 (Seaton 12), Cincinnati 40 (Merrill 12). Assists—St. Peter's 13 (Willis 5), Cincinnati 15 (Sharp 8). Total fouls—St. Peter's 18, Cincinnati 15. A— 2,056.

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UC loses in two overtimes
- UC women gain 1st NCAA tourney win

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