No matter what obstacles were thrown at them this Conference USA season, the Houston Cougar women's basketball team overcame. Six-point deficit in the final seconds against SMU? No problem. 14-point halftime deficit at Rice? Coogs win, anyway. Noisy home crowd for UTEP in the conference tournament? No sweat. The Cougars got past all of these and more, en route to a perfect 16-0 conference campaign, and program-record 17-game winning streak.
But on Friday, in the tournament's semi-final against Tulane, all of the factors working against the Coogs became too much. Houston was working on a short break, playing the last game on Thursday evening, only to turn around and prepare for an 11:30 AM local tip. Two-time C-USA Player of the Year Courtney Taylor didn't play well, and some sketchy fouls kept her on the bench much of the game, and eventually fouled her out. The entire team did an uncharacteristically poor job both getting to, and converting from the free throw line, putting up a 7-for-15 effort. It all added up to a 70-60 Tulane win.
What's next for the Coogs? Find out after the jump.
The good news is that this team is a mortal lock for an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament. The 26-5 record, the flawless conference campaign and the signature wins over Oral Roberts, Nebraska and Louisville meant that Houston's dance card was punched long before they set foot in El Paso for the conference tournament. You don't go from #22 in the country to out of the NCAAs based on one, tough loss.
The bad news is that winning the conference tournament will go down as a goal unrealized for a talented group of seniors. The loss may also drop the Coogs out of the top 25, and hurt their tournament seeding from a likely #5 or #6 to possibly an 8 or 9-seed.
The good news is that, with the team struggling from some slow starts of late, hopefully the loss will serve as a wake-up call heading into the Big Dance.