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Bearcats Produce Another Solid Season in 1999-00




The University of Cincinnati women's basketball team entered the 1999-00 season on a high. The Bearcats, coming off one of the program's most successful campaigns, looked to build on their first NCAA Tournament berth in 10 years.

Cincinnati's road to a third consecutive postseason appearance, however, would have to be paved by a new cast of players. UC returned just two starters-seniors Madinah Slaise and Candice Roberson-from a 22-9 squad in 1998-99. Head coach Laurie Pirtle knew the key to UC's success would be determined by the ability of the Bearcats' six underclassmen to step up and contribute.

UC would show signs of inexperience throughout the season, but by the end, sophomores Laura Wilder and Tish Perry became mainstays in the starting lineup, while freshmen Candice Holley and Kristen Sharp battled it out for the team's top newcomer award.

Non-Conference Schedule Gets Tough
A strong non-conference schedule awaited Cincinnati. The Bearcats opened the season with a 50-45 win over Wisconsin-Green Bay in the Shoemaker Center on Nov. 21. Slaise took little time in showing who the team's leader would be, scoring 20 points to spark a second-half rally for UC's third season-opening win in four years.

Three days later, the Bearcats traveled north for a battle with Michigan. UC's inexperience showed as the Wolverines shot .500 from the field and held Slaise to just two points en route to a 67-59 victory. Freshman Candice Holley provided a bright spot for Cincinnati, scoring 17 points. The Bearcats followed with a pair of losses, falling 58-55 to Pittsburgh on Nov. 28 and 63-50 to Dayton on Dec. 1. The three losses would be the team's longest losing streak of the year.

With a 1-3 record, the Bearcats faced their biggest challenge, a battle with crosstown rival Xavier. The team responded as Tish Perry scored four points in the final three minutes to give UC a 77-71 double overtime victory over the previously unbeaten Musketeers. Perry finished with eight points, while Slaise led the team with 25 points and 11 boards. It was the Bearcats' fourth straight win over the Musketeers.

The overtime victory gave the Bearcats momentum as they entered a five-game homestand. Slaise led UC with 26 points in wins over Ohio and Belmont on Dec. 13 and 16. She also collected 11 points vs. East Tennessee State on Dec. 17 as Cincinnati rolled to its fourth straight win.

The Bearcats' 75-74 victory over Ohio was a special one for Pirtle, as she registered her 250th career win as a head coach. A visiting Kentucky squad spoiled Cincinnati's Christmas, snapping the team's four-game win streak by a 68-62 count on Dec. 22. Slaise scored 32 points, including 17 in the second half.

Following the holiday break, UC defeated Middle Tennessee State, 63-54. Kristen Sharp spearheaded a second-half spurt to rally the team to victory. Sharp registered all six of her points during the team's 20-5 second half run.

Bearcats Challenged In C-USA Action
Playing without Slaise in their Conference USA opener at Louisville on Jan. 2, the Bearcats struggled, falling 65-56. Five days later, UC rebounded with a 57-53 victory at DePaul as Slaise collected a game-high 25 points. Candice Roberson nailed four free throws in the final 30 seconds to preserve the win.

The Bearcats dropped a 79-62 decision to Marquette before returning to the Shoemaker Center to face No. 13 Tulane on Jan. 14. With a strong overall performance, Cincinnati snapped the Green Wave's unbeaten streak as sophomore Portia Flournoy exploded for 17 points and eight rebounds. Laura Wilder helped UC dominate the boards, grabbing a career-high 15 rebounds, including 11 on the offensive glass.

UC would struggle during its next contest, falling 58-56 to Southern Miss. Trailing by seven with :58 remaining, the Bearcats rallied to bring the game within two points with :06 left, courtesy of a Flournoy jumper. Fouled on the next possession, Southern Miss' Kim Young went to the line, sinking both charity tosses to pull out the win.

Bearcats Pick Up The Pace
Slaise matched her career high with 35 points against Charlotte on Jan. 20, to lead UC to a 77-69 win. The effort allowed Slaise to become the seventh player in UC history to record 1,500 points in a career.

The Bearcats winning streak continued two days later with a 61-56 victory over Saint Louis. Slaise tallied a game-high 28 points, including 11 straight during a decisive 21-4 run in the second half. For her efforts, Slaise was honored as Conference USA's player of the week, her third award in four seasons.

With renewed vigor, the Bearcats kicked off a four-game trip only to find how hard it is to play on the road in Conference USA, dropping three of the four contests.

The trip began with a 79-70 loss at Memphis in which Slaise scored 29 points. UAB would top UC two days later with a 76-62 win before the Bearcats rebounded with a 55-54 win at Saint Louis. UC closed out the trip with an 80-57 loss at Charlotte on Feb. 7.

With an 11-10 record, the Bearcats returned home to face C-USA National division leader Marquette. Despite a 17-point effort from Holley, the team fell, 71-58.

UC Peaks as Season Winds Down
Faced with the possible end of its postseason tournament hopes, Cincinnati challenged itself and the team responded.

Holley netted a career-high 22 points and Slaise added 25 for a 71-56 win over DePaul on Feb. 13 and a sweep of the season series.

Five days later, Slaise scored 28 points as the team came from behind to beat Houston, 66-64. Slaise scored nine of the team's final 10 points. Holley also continued her torrid scoring pace, registering 20 points, including 14 in the first half, and grabbing 10 rebounds for her first career double-double.

The Bearcats returned home to close out the regular season with a three-game homestand. Cincinnati scored a season-high 84 points behind Slaise's 28 to defeat South Florida, 84-62. Holley hit for 19 points for her seventh consecutive double-figure scoring effort.

Cincinnati closed out its non-conference schedule with an 80-43 win over American on Feb. 24. Slaise scored 21 of her 27 points in the first half, including the first 13 UC points of the game, propelling the Bearcats to their largest victory of the year. Flournoy, took advantage of her first career start to score 12 points and grab seven rebounds. Freshman Merelenea Dozier come off the bench to play the final eight minutes, scoring a career-high 13 points on 4-of-7 shots from behind the arc.

It was the third straight game Cincinnati shot better than 50 percent from the field (30-56) and matched its longest winning streak of the season at four.

Facing Louisville in the regular season finale, Slaise scored a career-high 36 points in 29 minutes for an 84-65 win over the Cardinals.

UC finished the regular season with a 16-11 overall record and a 9-7 mark in C-USA to head into the league tournament as the No. 6 seed.

Bearcats Make C-USA Tourney Semifinals
Facing No. 10 Houston in the first round, Cincinnati started strong offensively, using 10 of Slaise's 16 first half points to build a 20-9 lead with 9:03 left. Houston rallied to cut the lead to one, 30-29, at intermission. In the second half, the game saw five ties and eight lead changes before UC finally took the lead for good on Tish Perry's 3-pointer with 1:30 left. Slaise tallied a game-high 29 points in the win.

Against Tulane in the quarterfinals, UC led 36-31 at halftime but could not stop the Green Wave's Grace Daley who scored 25 of her game-high 27 points in the second half to hand the Bearcats a 91-78 loss.

UC Earns Third Straight Postseason Bid
The Bearcats entered the WNIT with a 17-12 overall record, winning six of their last seven outings. The team's success continued with a 76-60 ousting of Pittsburgh in the first round to picked up its first postseason win since 1981. Slaise again led the attack with a game-high 32 points.

The win brought UC home to face Michigan State in the second round. The Bearcats led by as many as 14 in the first half, surging to a 27-13 advantage eight minutes into the contest. The Spartans responded with an 11-3 run, bringing it to 49-48 at the half in favor of Cincinnati

UC jumped out to a 61-56 lead after the break. The advantage was short-lived as MSU once again answered with an 10-point run, eventually taking over the lead for good and cutting the Bearcats' postseason play short with an 88-83 win before 1,457 fans in the Shoe.

Slaise ended her career on a high note, scoring a career-high and Shoemaker record 38 points. Candice Holley added 12 points, while Wilder chipped in nine.

The Bearcats wrapped up the year with their fourth consecutive winning season, claiming an 18-13 record. They also made their third straight postseason appearance and fifth overall in the team's 29-year history.

 

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