RADFORD, Va. -- For a half, UNC-Greensboro played like it was feeling the pressure that goes along with being a No. 1 seed.
In the second half, it was Towson State that was feeling the pressure.
The Tigers' 15-point halftime lead and their upset hopes evaporated under UNC Greensboro's suffocating full-court press, as the Spartans overpowered Towson State, 81-69, in the semifinals of the Big South Conference women's basketball tournament last night in Radford University's Dedmon Center.
Vickie Henson scored 23 of her tournament-record 36 points in UNC Greensboro's 53-point second half, and the Spartans advanced to tonight's final against Radford, while ending Towson State's five-game winning streak.
The Tigers followed a near-perfect first half, during which they led by as many as 16 points, by wilting in the second half. Towson State (12-16), the tournament's fifth seed, shot just 29 percent in the second half and became unnerved by UNC Greensboro's 2-2-1 press.
"Obviously, we didn't handle the pressure well," said Towson State coach Ellen Fitzkee. "We just panicked. Nobody wanted the ball."
In the first half, Shannon Ward wanted the ball and got it. She scored 19 of her 21 points in the opening 20 minutes as the Tigers embarked on a 24-4 scoring run to take a 37-21 lead.
A dozen of those points were supplied by Ward, who made nine of 11 first-half shots. Ward, however, was one for 10 in the second half.
"In the first half, we came out and attacked," said Ward. "In the second half, we got a little nervous. Even though we had a 15-point lead, we knew it wouldn't be an easy game."
The Spartans -- like the Tigers, first-year Big South members -- connected on nine of their first 12 shots in the second half and tied the game at 51 on Henson's baseline jumper with 10:44 left.
"I knew that somebody had to come out and want to shoot the ball," said Henson, a 6-foot-2 junior who also had 11 rebounds. "I asked for the ball every chance I got."
There were three ties and seven lead changes in the second half before UNC Greensboro ended the game on a 22-8 run. The Spartans, who made 31 of 36 free throws on the night, were 17 of 19 from the line in the final 7:22.
UNC-Greensboro got 14 points from Micky Haywood and 10 from Julie Moore. Megan Gebbia scored 13 points and Danielle Barry added 10 for a Towson State team that featured no seniors and went 12-9 after an 0-7 start.
"The last 10 games or so have been good for us," said Fitzkee. "We have high hopes for next year."