March 9, 2012
LAS VEGAS, Nevada - Jasmine Bendolph and Angie Felton combined for 40 points and Whitney Jones hit two clutch free throws with nine seconds to play to lift Louisiana Tech to a 73-69 win over Utah State in the semifinals of the 2012 Western Athletic Conference Tournament Friday at the Orleans Arena.
With the victory, Tech advances to the championship game of the tournament and will face the winner of Fresno State and Idaho Saturday at 5 p.m. CT in a game that will be televised on the WAC Sports Network.
In one of its top offensive games of the season, the Lady Techsters shot 49 percent (26-53) from the field, 7-of-17 from the three-point line and 14-of-16 from the free throw line to defeat the Aggies for the second time this season. Tech improved to 14-2 all-time against Utah State.
After building a 62-50 lead with just over eight minutes to play, Louisiana Tech had to withstand a furious Utah State rally that saw the Aggies close the deficit to within 71-69 on a three-point play by Brooke Jackson with only 31 seconds to play.
On the ensuing inbounds play, Tech turned the ball over as Utah State had two opportunities to tie or take the lead. However, Jackson's layup was blocked by Felton and Devyn Christensen's three-pointer was off target.
Utah State then fouled Jones with nine seconds to play as the West Monroe native calmly sank a pair of free throws to seal the win.
Bendolph and Felton kept the Aggies at arm's length all day. Bendolph scored a season-high 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting while also adding five rebounds and four assists in 40 minutes of action. Felton added a career-high 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting with six rebounds, a career-high five steals and two blocks.
"It was important that we kept a hand in (Christensen's) face," said Bendolph. "If she sees that rim, she's going to take the shot and more than likely it's going to go in. In the end we did a good job of putting a hand in her face and playing team defense."
Utah State, which entered the game as the WAC's top three-point shooting team percentage wise at 39 percent, hit three of the first five three-pointers they attempted in the opening five minutes. The Aggies wouldn't connect on one the rest of the game.
While Christensen and Jackson struggled offensively, Utah State forward Ashlee Brown didn't as the senior scored 24 points and grabbed 16 rebounds to lead the Aggies.
Tech held a 36-33 halftime advantage after ending the first half on an 11-3 run as Bendolph and Felton combined for 17 first half points. The Lady Techsters came out in the second half and quickly pushed the advantage to double figures at 50-39 as Felton scored seven points in the run.
The Lady Techsters advance to the program's eighth WAC Tournament championship game in their 11 years in the league.