McLeod’s late shots lift LA Tech to win over UTSA
RUSTON, La. – For the second time in three nights, Louisiana Tech found itself in a one possession game with less than 90 seconds to play.
And for the second straight game, the Lady Techsters made plays down the stretch to win, fighting off a valiant effort by UTSA in a 63-55 victory Friday night at the Thomas Assembly Center.
Tech (11-4, 2-0 C-USA) entered the game on a six-game winning streak and hadn’t lost in more than a month. UTSA (2-11, 0-1 C-USA) entered the game on a five-game losing streak and hadn’t won in more than a month.
However, Tech head coach Brooke Stoehr knew the Roadrunners were better than their two-win record. She was right.
After trailing for much of the third quarter, Tech found itself leading 56-55 late in the fourth quarter with possession of the basketball and the shot clock running down. That’s when sophomore guard Anna McLeod came through in the clutch.
With UTSA focused on stopping Alexus Malone in the post, McLeod flashed into the lane from the weak side, received the pass and calmly drained a 15-footer with 1:19 to play to push the lead to 58-55.
“We actually just put that in today at shoot around,” said Stoehr, who along with her co-head coach husband Scott picked up their 100th career win. “We felt like we could take advantage and give Alexus some room to work in there and have the backside player flash to the ball. Anna just stepped up and hit a couple of big shots for us. We didn’t shoot it extremely well especially from three, but I thought when we needed to make plays we found some toughness. We found something within us.”
With the outcome still in doubt, Tech forced a UTSA turnover on the next possession and then once again ran the shot clock down before McLeod answered for a second straight time, hitting a 17-footer from the right wing to push the lead to 60-55. McLeod finished with a career-high 14 points in just 14 minutes of action.
“I thought Anna was really big for us off the bench tonight and that was much needed,” said Stoehr. “We got some balance, but I am not pleased with how we played, especially our effort at times and our execution on the defensive end of the floor. I’m frustrated and yet we only gave up 55 points. But we are playing to a standard and that is what we have to get across to this group.
“You can’t take plays off. You can’t have stretches where we don’t execute. That’s all a part of growing. I’m not very patient. I sometimes forget we only have one senior on this team. I also know what this group is capable of and we are nowhere near where we can get.”
Following McLeod’s second bucket, Tech forced another turnover and then junior guard Kierra Anthony hit 3-of-4 free throws in the final 12 seconds to seal the win.
Thanks to UTSA sophomore forward Marie Benson, the win didn’t come easy.
Benson hit 11-of-21 shots and scored a game-high 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds helping the Roadrunners become just the second team in 10 games to outrebound the Lady Techsters at the Thomas Assembly Center this season. UTSA outboarded Tech 40-37 and outscored the Lady Techsters 14-10 on second chance points.
“I thought (Benson) did a really good job,” said Stoehr. “I said it all week long as I watched film that this UTSA team is better than a two-win team. I thought they played very well tonight. I didn’t think we played very well from an offensive standpoint. Defensively I didn’t feel we had any lift or any pop. Our energy was there in spurts, and I thought we had some really good possessions when it mattered late in the game. Just 13 turnovers, that is good. We had 16 assists. I thought (Kierra) Lang was very good at the point for us.”
After UTSA took an early 2-1 lead, Tech scored five straight points and never trailed again in the first half. The Lady Techsters led 18-15 at the end of the first quarter and 30-29 at halftime.
The third quarter was a different story. UTSA scored the first three points of a quarter that saw both teams shoot miserably from the field. Tech missed nine of its first 10 shots while UTSA missed its first 10 shots, although the Roadrunners got to the free throw line. UTSA held a 42-38 lead late in the frame before Lang and Malone combined for the final six points, giving the Techsters a 44-42 advantage through three.
Malone led Tech with 19 points and eight rebounds while Anthony added 17 points and four boards. McLeod added 14 points and four boards while Taylor Stahly scored 10 points, including a pair of three-pointers that upped her consecutive games with at least one three-pointer to 15.
Tech shot 44 percent (27-62) from the field, but only 3-of-16 from the three-point line and 6-of-10 from the free throw line. UTSA shot 35 percent (20-57) from the field, 1-of-6 from the three-point line and 14-of-18 from the stripe.
The Lady Techsters will return to action Thursday when they put their seven-game winning streak on the line at Southern Miss.
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