March 13, 2014
EL PASO, Texas - Louisiana Tech's improbable run in the Conference USA Tournament came to an end Thursday night but not before the Lady Techsters gave the host UTEP Miners a scare.
Tech (12-20), which made history Wednesday night when it became the lowest seed (14) to ever advance to the quarterfinals of any conference tournament in Division I women's basketball history, turned a five-point halftime deficit into a 48-43 lead with 11:10 to play.
However, the Miners (24-6) turned up the pressure on the defensive end as their full-court press forced Tech into some costly turnovers as UTEP went on a 17-2 run to push its advantage out to 60-50 with just under eight minutes to play.
The lead grew to as many as 14 at 72-58 before the Lady Techsters made one final run. Tech eventually cut the deficit to 78-72 with less than a minute to play but the Miners hit some free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
"What an awesome ride and a great atmosphere today to be able to play in front of," said Tech head coach Teresa Weatherspoon. "We played against a very good UTEP basketball team. We kind of fed off the energy of that crowd. We just gave up a lot of penetrations to the basket. They got us off guard a little bit defensively, then after a little while the basket had kind of a cover over it for a moment for us. Our kids gave a tremendous effort, the championship effort that we look for. The effort and the focus were tremendous; they just had that never give up attitude. I couldn't be a prouder coach than what is I am with that group of kids in that locker room."
Louisiana Tech came out of the starting blocks fast, building an early 7-1 lead against the Miners. However, UTEP fought back and took its first lead of the game at 12-11 before a Whitney Frazier jumper at the 11:45 mark put Tech back on top at 13-12.
It was the last field goal Tech would make until less than two minutes to play in the half when Quanny Jackson's three-pointer with 1:20 to play cut the UTEP lead to 21-20. The Miners took a 28-23 lead into the halftime lockerroom.
"You have to tip your hat to LA Tech; they played extremely well and hard this week," said UTEP coach Keitha Adams. "They've played well together, shot the ball well; they made us earn that game and coach Weatherspoon has done a great job."
UTEP hit 69 percent (18-26) of its field goals in the second half.
"It makes a tremendous difference," Weatherspoon said. "A team shooting 70 percent from the field will make it difficult on your defense. We had to buckle down defensively. When we do buckle down defensively, we make it difficult for you to take the shots that you desire. When we didn't buckle down, they were getting downhill on us and finishing with and ones."
Kelia Shelton led Tech with 25 points, while Frazier added 17 points, 13 rebounds and five steals. Jackson chipped in with 15 points.
Louisiana Tech ended the season winning four of its last five games, including four of its last six away from the Thomas Assembly Center.
Senior guards Jelena Vucinic and Brittney Jefferson ended their LA Tech careers in their final game as a Lady Techster.
"We will miss Jelena and Brittney's leadership next year," Weatherspoon said. "Neither one played as much as though would have liked but they both were tremendous assets to this team and to this program. They will both be successful in the future."