March 7, 2012
LAS VEGAS, Nevada - Louisiana Tech exorcised its Hawaii Rainbow Wahine demons Wednesday afternoon as the Lady Techsters defeated UH 63-54 in the first quarterfinal game of the 2012 Western Athletic Conference Tournament at the Orleans Arena.
Despite struggling to shoot the basketball for the third straight time against Hawaii this year - the Rainbow Wahine swept the regular season series from the Lady Techsters for the first time ever - LA Tech used a solid defensive effort and near-perfect free throw shooting to advance to Friday's semifinal against the winner of Utah State and Nevada.
"My hats off to Hawaii," said Tech head coach Teresa Weatherspoon. "They are a very well-coached basketball team that's had our number all season long. It was a difficult battle for us to even get going. When you are playing against a team like this, as hard as they play, it's tough to get going. You have to find a way to battle through adversity. We were fortunate to get out of here with a win."
Tech (16-14) shot only 32 percent (21-of-66) from the field for the game, but hit 17-of-19 free throws over the final 20 minutes of play as it pulled away late for the win. The Lady Techsters also committed a season-low eight turnovers while outscoring UH 19-6 in points off of turnovers.
"Our past two games, we have had 46 turnovers," Weatherspoon said. "It's led to the other teams getting excited and scoring and putting us is a hole. Our kids understood that very possession is valuable."
In a game that saw 11 ties and nine lead changes, UH (11-19) used a 13-4 run to grab a 44-42 lead with only 6:16 to play in the game. However, Lady Techster freshman guard Courtney Hayes, playing on the same floor where she led Centennial High School to the Nevada state title less than a year ago, hit a jumper as Tech used a 7-0 run to take a 49-44 advantage.
Neither team was ever able to find an offensive rhythm in a first half that saw Tech take a 26-25 lead into the locker room. In the opening 20 minutes, Tech shot only 26 percent (11-42) from the field while Hawaii shot only 38 percent (10-26).
Hawaii built as much as a five-point lead in the first half at 23-18 with 6:51 to play before Bendolph hit a short jumper that ignited an 8-2 run to end the stanza. Bendolph's three-pointer with 37 seconds to play in the half gave Tech the one-point lead.
The second half saw the Lady Techsters hold UH without a field goal for more than six minutes as a Bendolph jumper with 14:28 to play in the game gave Tech its largest advantage at 38-31. However, Tech went cold for the next eight minutes scoring only four points while Hawaii sophomore Kamilah Jackson scored five points to lead a 13-4 run that saw the Rainbow Wahine take its last lead of the game at 44-42.
Tech shot 42 percent (10-24) from the field in the second half while holding UH to only 26 percent (7-27).
Bendolph led Tech with 20 points, six rebounds and four assists while Bramble-Donaldson added 13 points and 11 rebounds. Jackson led Hawaii with 17 points and 16 rebounds while Vicky Tagalicod added 13 points.
Tech improved to 21-5 all-time in WAC Tournament games and 53-8 all-time in conference tournament games. The Lady Techsters are 17-1 all-time in quarterfinal contests.
The Lady Techsters semifinal matchup Friday will tipoff at 2 p.m. CT.