March 5, 2014
RUSTON - It didn't take Kelia Shelton long to make an impact.
Louisiana Tech's junior guard who just became eligible to play last week following the end of the winter quarter scored a game-high 17 points and hit the game-winning shot with 5.6 seconds to play to lift the Lady Techsters to a come-from-behind 67-65 win over FIU Wednesday night at the Thomas Assembly Center.
With the game tied at 65-65 following a free throw by FIU guard Kamika Idom with 28 seconds to play, head coach Teresa Weatherspoon put the ball into Shelton's hands for the game-deciding play. Shelton responded, driving down the right side of the lane, exploding into the air and banking home the game-winner while drawing a foul from FIU's Jerica Coley.
"Coach (Weatherspoon) believed in me," Shelton said. "She put the ball in my hands. I knew I wanted to get to the rim and either win the game or worse case, go into overtime."
Leading 67-65, Shelton missed the free throw and Coley - the nation's second leading scorer - pulled down the rebound. However, the Lady Techsters defense did a good job of guarding her up the court, forcing Coley to fire an off-balance 25-footer at the buzzer that didn't draw iron.
"Kelia gives us another option," Weatherspoon said. "She is an explosive player who can elevate and make plays. I knew I wanted the ball in her hands. She had success all night getting into the lane and that's what we wanted her to do again. She made a big play in a big moment."
With the victory, Tech (10-19, 5-11 C-USA) won back-to-back games for the first time since December and will enter the C-USA Tournament next week as the No. 14 seed. The Lady Techsters will play their first round game Tuesday in El Paso against the 11 seed North Texas. Game times have not yet been released.
Shelton's heroics capped a comeback that saw Tech erase a 12-point deficit over the final 11 minutes of action. A Coley jumper with 11:59 to play in the game gave FIU (12-17, 6-10 C-USA) its biggest lead of the game at 53-41.
The deficit remained double digits at 58-48 on two Coley free throws with 8:37 to play. However, Whitney Frazier scored five points and JaQuan Jackson added a bucket as Tech cut he FIU advantage down to 58-55 with 7:21 to play.
Tech and FIU traded buckets over the final six minutes until Chrisstasia Walter's driving layup down the left side of the lane with 1:02 to play gave Tech a 65-64 lead, its first since a 35-34 advantage on the opening possession of the second half.
In addition to Shelton's big night, Frazier recorded her 14th double double of the year with 15 points and 13 rebounds and Veanca Hall tied her career-high with 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting. Lulu Perry added 12 points off the bench.
Coley led FIU with 29 while Idom added 19 points.
The Lady Techsters outrebounded FIU 41-33 while allowing the Panthers to pull down only five offensive rebounds. Tech also committed only eight turnovers in the contest while recording 14 assists.
As a team Tech shot 43 percent (28-65) from the field, 4-of-10 from the three-point line and 7-of-15 from the free throw line. FIU lost despite shooting 49 percent (26-53) from the field, 7-of-17 from the three-point line and 6-of-11 from the free throw line.