March 10, 2014
EL PASO, TEXAS - Although Louisiana Tech might be the No. 14 seed in this week's Conference USA Tournament in El Paso, the Lady Techsters also might be one of the most dangerous teams.
Tech (10-19, 5-11 C-USA) enters the tournament having won two straight conference games with wins over North Texas and FIU, and the Lady Techsters have added a piece to the puzzle late in the season in junior guard Kelia Shelton.
The 5-foot-8-inch dynamic playmaker has been a big reason for Tech's recent success, averaging 9.5 points and 7.0 rebounds while hitting the game-winning shot against FIU Saturday.
Shelton will lead the Lady Techsters into Tuesday's first round game against North Texas which is set for a 6 p.m. CT tipoff at Memorial Gymnasium.
"With the way we have played the last few weeks and coming off of two wins, we have definitely gained a lot of confidence and momentum heading into (the conference tournament)," Weatherspoon said. "We want to build on those things. We know we have a great opportunity when we arrive in El Paso.
"Kelia Shelton's presence on the floor alone has helped us as a team. She is one person that her teammates know they can look to and that brings confidence. She brings so much to the game. She can run the show, she gets her teammates involved, and she scores and defends and rebounds. The confidence that she brings to the floor and to this team has been great for us."
Shelton will join a Tech lineup that already contains four double digit scorers in Whitney Frazier (16.4 ppg, 9.8 rpg), Chrisstasia Walter (11.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg), JaQuan Jackson (11.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg) and Lulu Perry (11.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg).
She adds to the LA Tech depth on Weatherspoon's bench.
"It is huge," Weatherspoon said. "We needed an extra body. When you have someone like Whitney Frazier that you know you can go to, it is big. When you add Kelia Shelton who can really stretch the defense and who is so explosive at the rim, it makes a huge difference. She gives us another weapon. She makes everyone around her better, and it makes everyone else's job easier."
North Texas (12-17, 6-10 C-USA) enters the tournament having dropped two straight. However, the Mean Green took Southern Miss down to the wire in their season finale before falling 80-77. Alexis Hyder (11.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and Briesha Wynn (11.2 ppg, 6.9 rpg) are the top two players for the Mean Green.
Tech defeated North Texas 67-54 in Denton on March 1.
"I think it's a good thing (that we played them recently)," said Weatherspoon. "We know them, and they know us. We had a chance to play them (a week ago), and we know we have to do a lot of things better. They have a very good basketball team that shoots the ball very well. They are active, and they rebound. We have to do a lot of things much better than the first time. We have to defend better, rebound better and execute a little better offensively. If we do that, we give ourselves a chance."
Tech leads the all-time series against the Mean Green 5-0.
"They got us at our place and played very well," said North Texas head coach Mike Petersen. "We will have to do a better job of controlling penetration and containing Whitney Frazier. And we have to do a better job of valuing the ball against them; we cannot afford as many turnovers as we had in our last game with them."
The Lady Techsters are 55-10 all-time in conference tournaments, claiming 16 titles in 26 years.
The contest can be heard on the LA Tech Sports Network on ESPN 97.7 FM with the pregame show starting at 5:30 p.m. Every game in the first three days of the tournament can be seen on the internet with a subscription to the CUSA Digital Network.