Nov. 8, 2013
COLUMBIA, S.C. - Louisiana Tech head coach Teresa Weatherspoon knew her team would be in for a challenge when she scheduled her team's season opener against 21st ranked South Carolina set for Sunday at 1 p.m. CT at Colonial Life Arena.
After all, the Gamecocks return more than 60 percent of their scoring and rebounding from last year's 25-win team despite graduating three starters. Head coach Dawn Staley, entering her sixth year in Columbia, also adds four newcomers, including Parade All-American Alaina Coates and Junior College Player of the Year Olivia Gaines.
However, Weatherspoon and Co.'s challenge increased dramatically as three projected starters will all miss the game due to academic reasons. The trio will return for the Nov. 16 contest at Virginia.
"Unfortunately, we won't go in to the game with a full roster," Weatherspoon said. "Sometimes these things happen and other players have to step up and show they are able to do more than maybe they think they can.
"You talk about a challenge. You lose three key players ... the leadership alone that you lose not to mention the bulk of your scoring. It's a huge challenge. And with South Carolina being as good as they are ... they are going to pound it in the paint. We have to be smart with our eight players we can have five on the floor that are competing hard for 40 minutes."
Weatherspoon will turn to the leadership of junior forward/guard Whitney Frazier and senior guard Jelena Vucinic in the opener. Frazier, a second team all-Western Athletic Conference performer as a sophomore, averaged 11.7 points and 6.0 rebounds a contest a year ago for the Lady Techsters. Vucinic averaged just over 4 points per contest but has shown signs in her career of the ability to have big games, including her 17-point, 13-rebound performance at San Jose State.
"We have a lot of new players," said Weatherspoon. "It is great to get back into it and get back into the fun of what we love to do. The new players and coaches have been great. Practices have been upbeat. The new staff has been very positive. We are looking forward to our first game to see where we are against some tough competition."
The Lady Techsters are 30-9 all-time in season openers, including last year's road loss against Tulane. Tech is 25-14 all-time in road openers.
Tech leads the all-time series against South Carolina 3-2 although the Gamecocks prevailed 82-58 in last year's game played in Ruston.
The contest can be heard on the LA Tech Sports Network on KNBB 97.7 FM with Andrew Africk providing the play-by-play with the pregame show starting at 12:30 p.m. CT. Fans can also hear the audio live on the internet by purchasing a subscription to either LA Tech All-Access ($9.95 per month) or the C-USA Digital Network ($14.95 per month).
LA Tech All-Access provides live audio for every Lady Techster game as well as live video for every home non-televised game. The C-USA Digital Network provides the same content with the addition of live video for every road conference game.
Fans can follow live updates through Twitter by following @LATechWBB. They can also like the Lady Techster Facebook page at Facebook.com/LATechWBB.