Posted Mar 11, 2004 16:30:39
Techsters Face UTEP in WAC Semifinals Friday
FRESNO, Calif. - When UTEP walked off the Save Mart Center floor Wednesday with an 80-73 overtime win over SMU in the quarterfinals of the 2004 Western Athletic Conference Tournament, the Miners and their coaching staff knew they didn't have much time to celebrate their victory.
Staring UTEP head coach Keitha Green in the face was a 2 p.m. CST semifinal match-up Friday against No. 6 ranked and top-seeded Louisiana Tech (25-2), who had just dismantled Boise State 100-56 in a record setting performance in the day's first game.
UTEP will be attempting to accomplish something that no league team has done since 1995, knock Louisiana Tech off in a conference tournament game. The Lady Techsters enter Friday's game with a 24-game conference tournament-winning streak.
"We are excited to play a team like Louisiana Tech because you are matching up against the best," said UTEP senior guard Noni Wharemate, who hit the game-tying three-pointer with 0:12 remaining in regulation to send the game against SMU into overtime. "Our team is really looking forward to the challenge."
Challenge might not be a big enough word, and Wharemate and her teammates might want to talk to the Boise State players, who were also "excited" entering their game against the Lady Techsters. That excitement quickly turned to exhaustion and then a quick exit as Tech jumped out to a 66-28 halftime lead on their way to the 44-point win.
Green, Wharemate and Co. should expect the same full-court press that turned Boise State's quarterfinal game into 40 minutes of complete agony.
"You have to be able to handle their pressure," Green said following her team's win over SMU. "You have to shoot the ball well and hope (Louisiana Tech) has an off night. They are a great team, but we have to believe we can win."
When asked by a local Fresno reporter if she had witnessed any of the Lady Techsters win over Boise State, Green quickly said no and then was quickly told, "They looked incredible." Green just smiled.
Louisiana Tech head coach Kurt Budke was all smiles after his team's impressive win but knows that UTEP can pose the Lady Techsters some problems with their size and ball-handling ability. Although Tech downed UTEP twice this season, 75-58 in Ruston and then 83-60 in El Paso, Budke knows his team must play well Friday.
"UTEP can really clog up the middle of the lane with their size," Budke said. "We were fortunate to shoot the ball well (from the outside) against them a couple of weeks ago (in El Paso) and that got us off to a good start. We have to make sure we play at our tempo and not let them dictate the tempo. We have to push the basketball and we have to continue to force turnovers."
The Lady Techsters rank No. 2 in the country in turnovers forced per game at 25.0, including seven games this year where they forced 30 or more.
The game can be heard on KXKZ-FM 107.5 and via the Internet at www.z1075fm.com.