Lady Techsters upset UAB to open C-USA tourney
FRISCO, Texas – It was an all too familiar scenario for Louisiana Tech heading down the stretch in the final minutes of the opening round of the 2020 Air Force Reserve Conference USA Basketball Tournament.
Tech, which had dropped four games by a single possession in the final minute over the last month against some of the top teams in the league, once again found itself in a position to pull off an impressive win.
The 12th-seeded Lady Techsters led the 5th seeded Blazers by as many as eight in the third quarter but when UAB senior point guard Miyah Barnes converted a conventional three-point play with 5:11 to play in the game, the Blazers led 53-52.
But this time, it didn’t matter.
Behind the play of freshman Anna Larr Roberson and sophomore Keiunna Walker, who combined for 15 of the 19 Tech points in the fourth quarter, Louisiana Tech made play after play over the final few minutes to pull out a 66-63 upset victory.
Tech (15-15) advances to Thursday’s quarterfinals to face 4th seeded Middle Tennessee, a team that the Lady Techsters defeated 78-60 in Ruston on Jan. 23.
“I’m really put of the effort,” said Tech head coach Brooke Stoehr. “This team has continued to fight over last three weeks in difficult losses. We’ve had some moments when we couldn’t close out games. Even when UAB took the lead in the fourth quarter, we didn’t flinch. We continued to make shots down the stretch. I thought we were solid defensively today. We forced 20 turnovers today by a team that doesn’t turn it over. We came in today believing we could win.”
The Lady Techsters avenged their fourth quarter from an opening day loss to Charlotte in 2019 when Tech hit just 1-of-23 field goals in the final 10 minutes. On this day, Tech scored on its final seven offensive possessions, going 5-for-5 from the field and 4-of-4 from the free throw line.
Walker, who scored nine of her 15 points in the final quarter, and Roberson, who had 6 of her 10 in the fourth stanza, combined to go 6-of-6 from the field. Walker also was a huge reason Tech held UAB leading scorer Rachael Childress, one of the top 5 three-point shooters in the history of the NCAA, to just six points, including 0-of-4 from beyond the arc.
“I thought to have a freshman and a sophomore step up on both ends of the floor was so big. Walker’s defense today on Childress was tremendous. She really frustrated her and didn’t give her any good looks. It’s the most balanced and under control offensively Walker has been all year. It was good to see. We were able to get her in some close out situations where she finished.
“I thought Anna Larr’s back-to-back buckets were huge, especially since they came right after she committed a turnover. For a freshman not to be afraid of that moment was huge. She really answered when we went to her and she played with poise down the stretch.”
The game wasn’t decided until the final seconds. After Barnes hit two free throws with 13 seconds to play to close the gap to 64-63, Tech inbounded the basketball in the front court and played keep-away for the next 10.5 seconds. By the time Blazer guard Angela Vendrell fouled Walker, there were just 2.5 seconds remaining.
Walker, who drew three charges against Childress as she frustrated the UAB guard all game, calmly sank both free throws to increase the lead to three.
Following a timeout by the Blazers, senior Grayson Bright made the game-ending defensive play when she stepped in front of the inbounds pass and recorded her fifth steal of the game to run out the clock.
UAB took the early game lead, holding a 13-10 advantage at the end of a first quarter that saw the Lady Techsters shoot just 4-of-19 from the field.
However, the second quarter was a different story. Newly named Conference USA 6th Player of the Year Raizel Guinto came off the Tech bench and sparked the Techsters hitting a pair of three-pointers in the second quarter as Tech outscored the Blazers 19-12 and held a 29-25 lead in the halftime locker room.
UAB outshot Tech 48 percent (25-52) to 38 percent (22-58) and outrebounded the Lady Techsters 36-29, but Tech forced 20 turnovers while only committing 10. The Lady Techsters also hit 16-of-20 free throws while UAB made only 9-of-14.
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