RENO, Nevada – Louisiana Tech used a 10-2 run late in the second half to pull away from Nevada and defeat the Wolf Pack 69-60 in the semifinals of the 2006 Western Athletic Conference Tournament at the Lawlor Events Center Friday afternoon.
With the victory, Tech advances to Saturday’s championship game where it will face the No. 7 seed New Mexico State Aggies, a 60-59 winner over Boise State in the other semifinal contest.
A Salaia Salave’a layup at the 6:14 mark of the second half cut the Tech lead to 53-49. However, back to back jumpers by Aarica Ray-Boyd and Tasha Williams upped the advantage to 57-49.
Nevada’s Traci Graham hit an 18-footer to cut the advantage to six before Tech reeled off six straight more points highlighted by a conventional three-point play by Shan Moore on a fast break lay-up with 2:30 to play. The Wolf Pack would get no closer than eight points the rest of the way.
“Give Nevada credit,” said Tech head coach Chris Long. “They fought hard. They have improved a great deal over the season, probably the most I’ve ever seen. They gave a lot of effort.”
Tech jumped out to a 15-6 lead early in the first half and looked like it was poised to pull away before Nevada freshman guard Dellena Criner led her team to a comeback. Criner, who scored 12 of her team-high 15 points in the opening half, hit back to back three-pointers and added a fast break layup to cut the Techster advantage to 19-18 midway through the first half.
Nevada used a 20-15 rebounding advantage in the first half to enter the halftime locker room trailing the 16th ranked Lady Techsters only 34-32.
“I thought the team fought hard but we didn’t open the game with the intensity we needed,” said Nevada head coach Kim Gervasoni. “We did a great job of controlling the boards. We fought for 40 minutes and I am proud of the team.”
Senior guard Tasha Williams hit 6-of-8 shots and 8-of-10 free throws to lead Tech with 20 points, seven assists and six rebounds while junior guard Shan Moore added 19 points as the Lady Techsters won their 14th consecutive game.
“I want the ball in my hands,” Williams said. “However, I was fatigued at times and my teammates did a good job of picking me up.”
With the win Tech advances to its 14th consecutive conference tournament championship game as the Lady Techsters will face an upstart New Mexico State squad that has knocked off the No. 2 seed Fresno State and No. 6 seed Boise State.
The winner of the 2 p.m. CST championship game will receive the automatic bid to the 2006 NCAA Tournament.
“New Mexico State has given us two tough games this year,” Long said. “They defend well. We’ll be ready because the championship is on the line.”