@LATechWBB Uses 4th Quarter Surge to Win at Middle Tennessee

Feb. 1, 2018

Box Score

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- Kierra Anthony scored 20 points, Taylor Stahly added 17 points and Reauna Cleaver played arguably her best game of the season to lead Louisiana Tech to a 66-49 win over Middle Tennessee before 3,436 fans at the Murphy Center Thursday night.

The win was the first by LA Tech over Middle Tennessee since the Lady Techsters joined Conference USA, snapping a six-game losing streak to the Blue Raiders.

Tech (14-8, 5-4 C-USA) used a strong fourth quarter to blow open a two-point game in handing Middle Tennessee (13-9, 5-4 C-USA) only its third home loss of the season.

Anthony recorded her second straight strong performance. After scoring 18 points in a home loss to WKU Sunday, the New Iberia native responded with 20 points and four rebounds in 37 minutes.

"She has been playing really well on the defensive end of the floor," said Tech head coach Brooke Stoehr. "That is the one thing I really praised her about. It wasn't the fact she score 18 points and shot a good percentage (against WKU). It was the fact she was aggressive defensively which created some easy offense. She did that again tonight.

"Middle Tennessee is so good in the half court. I knew we would have a hard time getting open and struggle to get easy shots. We needed our defense to generate some points for us. Kierra had a couple of steals in the third quarter that allowed us to get out in transition and play a little bit in the full court and that's where she excels. She did a really good job of anticipating some passes, getting in the passing lanes and being able to convert that to points."

With Tech clinging to a 36-34 lead heading into the fourth quarter, Anthony scored six points during a 14-2 run to open the final stanza as Tech pushed its advantage to 50-36. Anthony's conventional three-point play with 6:22 to play after a steal and outlet pass by teammate Kierra Lang capped the run that turned the momentum in favor of Tech.

 

 

Anthony wasn't the lone bright spot for Tech in the win. Stahly connected on three more three-pointers while hitting 8-of-8 free throws in the final two minutes while Cleaver added 10 points and six rebounds and Alexus Malone chipped in with nine points and seven boards.

"We have to have balance," said Stoehr. "I thought they did a really good job on Lex. They weren't going to let her catch and have easy touches and easy looks. I thought because of that, Sweets had some good looks and she hit some open jumpers. I really felt like we had balance. I thought we got some good contributions from our bench tonight. We have to have all 13. We had some kids that didn't play a lot tonight that have played more recently but they understand that they have to be mentally ready to go every day and when you get those opportunities you have to take advantage of them."

In addition to her offensive output, Cleaver spearheaded a stellar Lady Techster defensive team effort, holding preseason C-USA Player of the Year Alex Johnson to 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting while forcing six turnovers by the Blue Raiders No. 1 option.

"Sweets was phenomenal," said Stoehr. "We have been on her about playing in stance and playing balanced and I thought didn't just lay on her. She moved her feet, got to position and forced some really tough catches and forced her outside the post box. Johnson only got two rebounds and was only 5-for-13, but the biggest thing for me was the turnovers. I thought Sweets size bothered her and her length bothered her and it forced her to travel a few times. I am proud of her. We need continued defense like that."

Tech led 22-18 at halftime after an opening 20 minutes that saw both teams struggle for any consistent offensive output. Tech shot just 31 percent (7-22) from the field in the first half while Middle Tennessee shot 34 percent (8-23).

The Lady Techsters came out in the third quarter and seemed to take control a couple of times. An Anthony layup with 1:41 to play in the third quarter pushed the Tech lead to 36-27. However, Middle Tennessee responded, using a 7-0 run to close out the quarter.

"We let them get a little bit of momentum," said Stoehr. "The biggest thing was we missed a switch and got hung up on a stagger and gave them an open look for a three. That was one of their two three's that they hit. Then we fouled and then we gave them an easy couple of post touches where they scored in the paint. We came down and didn't get very good offensive looks. We got to the break and said, `Guys, it is zero zero. But we got to do a little bit more. We need to get a little bit more from a team standpoint. We need to get a little bit more going for a loose ball.' I thought we really went to get it in the fourth quarter and tracking down loose balls."

Any chance of a Middle Tennessee comeback in the final six minutes of play was doused as the Lady Techsters hit 17-of-21 free throws in the final quarter. For the game Tech was 25-of-35 from the free throw line.

Tech also shot 11-of-18 from the field in the second half and ended the game at 45 percent (18-40).

The Lady Techsters return to the floor Sunday when they host UAB at 2 p.m. The Blazers are tied for first place in the Conference USA standings with WKU and Rice.

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