Updated Feb 7, 2003 14:39:45
Techsters Defense Stymies Hawaii in 67-44 Win
HONOLULU - Louisiana Tech broke open a close game midway through the second half to down Hawaii 67-44 before 802 fans at the Stan Sheriff Center Thursday night.
Leading 35-32 with just over 14 minutes remaining, junior guard Amber Obaze's fast break lay up ignited a 13-2 Tech run over the next five minutes, propelling the ninth-ranked Lady Techsters (18-2, 10-0) to their 16th straight victory of the season.
"I can't tell you how proud I am of this basketball team," said Tech head coach Kurt Budke. "These kids have been through a lot over the past 10 days and there are so many distractions when you come to Hawaii, but they kept their focus and overcame a lot of adversity. This is a great win."
The Rainbow Wahine (11-8, 5-5) had won five straight games at home and had played some of the top teams in the country close at the Stan Sheriff Center, including a seven-point loss to No. 1 ranked Connecticut in December. However, Tech turned up its defensive pressure in the second half and controlled the boards to win its 13th straight regular season Western Athletic Conference game.
With senior center Cheryl Ford sidelined for much of the first half after picking up two personal fouls, Hawaii cut into an 11-point Lady Techster lead, ending the opening 20 minutes on a 22-14 run. The Rainbow Wahine did much of their damage at the free throw line in the first half, hitting 10 of 14 from the charity stripe as Tech only led 28-25 at the halftime break.
"I felt like at the half if we could keep from putting them at the free throw line, we would be okay," Budke said. "They shot only 29 percent in the first half (from the field), but kept it close because of their free throw shooting. We did a much better job in the second half of pressuring them without fouling."
Ford, who had only two points and three rebounds in 12 minutes of action in the first half, awoke in the second half, scoring 15 of her game-high 17 points, including a pair of conventional three-point plays during the decisive Lady Techster run.
"Cheryl continues to be the one player in this league that nobody can match up with," Budke said. "She is physical and strong and has become a much smarter player over the past few weeks. She is being more patient on the offensive end, and it has shown in her game."
Tech outscored Hawaii 34-20 in the paint, while also posting a 24-5 advantage in points off of turnovers.
Obaze added 15 points, five rebounds and five assists for Tech, while Erica Smith scored 13 points. Kim Willoughby led Hawaii with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Tech returns to action Saturday night against San Jose State at 9 p.m. CST.