Jan. 4, 2013
RUSTON - Louisiana Tech head coach Teresa Weatherspoon knows in order for her basketball team to win a Western Athletic Conference championship this year, it has to learn how to start games strong instead of falling behind early like it has the past three contests.
The Lady Techsters (5-7, 1-1 WAC) will get an opportunity to do just that Saturday night when they host UT Arlington at 7 p.m. at the Thomas Assembly Center. The game, which will be Tech's first at home since Dec. 14, can be heard on the LA Tech Sports Network with the pregame show beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Tech enters the game on the heels of splitting a two-game road trip out to Denver (W, 82-77) and New Mexico State (L, 71-67) but Weatherspoon isn't happy with how her team has started games during the past few weeks.
"It's definitely (a lack of) energy and intensity," Weatherspoon said. "You sometimes wonder what our mental approach is. What is on our mind. Is it the game plan? What we try to do is get the kids to understand how important a quick start is. We have to do a better job than we have been."
Over the course of the past three games - starting with a road loss at LSU before Christmas break - the Lady Techsters have found themselves trailing by 13 points or more at the midway mark of the first half. Tech was able to fight back and salvage a gutsy win at Denver but the early deficits were too much to overcome against LSU and New Mexico State.
"Most people would be happy to come off the road with a split but that wasn't our goal," Weatherspoon said. "We wanted to get both of those wins. We felt like we were prepared and ready. That's how you win championships. At Denver we did a great job of battling especially in that altitude. We remained confident and poised down stretch. However, we can't continue to put ourselves in those kind of holes and expect to always win."
Sophomore guard Kelia Shelton has been Tech's most consistent offensive threat since returning from Christmas break as the Clemson transfer is averaging 21.5 points per game in WAC play while shooting 57 percent from the field, including 5-of-9 from the three-point line.
Shelton is averaging a team-high 14.0 points per game while Brittany Lewis (13.4 ppg), Lulu Perry (8.7 ppg) and Whitney Frazier (8.7 ppg) are Tech's other top offensive threats. Perry showed signs of breaking out of a shooting slump in the loss to the Aggies as the freshman guard snapped a streak of 25 straight misses from beyond the arc by hitting a trio of three-pointers in the second half.
UT Arlington (3-9, 1-1) enters the game having also split a two-game road trip to Denver and New Mexico State, although the Mavericks had the exact opposite results than the Lady Techsters against those two opponents. UTA defeated New Mexico State 62-59 before falling at Denver 90-52.
The Mavs rank dead last in the WAC in scoring at only 54.0 points per game as their leading scorer is Malaika Green (8.2 ppg). Laila Suleiman (7.8 ppg) and Kiara Parker (6.3 ppg) round out UT Arlington's top three offensive threats.
Tech leads the all-time series against UT Arlington 10-0 although the two programs haven't met since an 89-44 Lady Techster victory on Dec. 18, 2000.