Techsters Face Oklahoma in Nike Classic
Updated Dec 17, 2004 14:55:03
EUGENE, Oregon - Two teams still searching for their identity square off Saturday at 6 p.m. CST when Louisiana Tech (4-3) faces Oklahoma (5-3) in the first game of the Nike Classic at McArthur Court.
Ohio State and Oregon will follow the conclusion of game No. 1.
Without the services of senior guard Erica Taylor, who along with her husband Jermain became the proud parents of newborn daughter Nia Jay Taylor earlier this week, Louisiana Tech has struggled, especially on the offensive end of the floor.
Techster head coach Kurt Budke won't make excuses, but he knows his team is still trying to find itself.
"I hate to use the word 'rebuilding,' but that's where we are right now (without Erica)," Budke said. "We've struggled without her. We thought she'd score 20 points a game, lead us on defense and be our vocal leader.
"We're asking so many inexperienced players to all of a sudden be go-to players and that transition takes time. We are getting better and this will be another opportunity to take a step forward."
Oklahoma head coach Sherri Coale understands Budke's plight. The Sooners have also had a Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde season thus far, having lost games to Iowa, Tulsa and TCU.
"Early in the year, you try to find your identity and who you are as a basketball team," Coale said. "You have to utilize November and December to do that."
Averaging 15.5 points per game less than last year's team which finished No. 2 in the country in scoring, Louisiana Tech would like to use its transition game to get some easier baskets. The Lady Techsters were successful with just that in the first 15 minutes of Wednesday's 70-59 loss to Tennessee before the Lady Vols slowed Tech down, forcing Budke's squad to score in a half-court set.
Although Oklahoma is a team that likes to push the tempo, Coale admits that the Lady Techsters ability to run concerns her deeply.
"Louisiana Tech is very athletic and their speed is disconcerting," Coale said. "We'll have to try to control the tempo. We're not a slow down team, but we'll have to control the pace to where we can handle it."
Oklahoma is led by all-everything guard Dionnah Jackson, who enters the game averaging 14.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game.
However, the key for Tech might be its ability to defend the perimeter as Oklahoma is averaging over 20 three-pointers per game through its first eight contests.
"Sherri Coale is one of the top coaches in this country," Budke said. "You know that when you player her teams, you have to be prepared. Oklahoma is very difficult to guard because they have the ability to beat you inside and outside."
Tech will continue to rely upon its starting three guards for most of its offense as Tasha Crain (14.3 ppg), Shan Moore (13.9 ppg) and Lakiste Barkus (12.1 ppg) are combining to score 40.3 of Tech's 67.0 points per game.
Louisiana Tech leads the all-time series with Oklahoma 4-0 and Techster teams are 63-6 all-time against current members of the Big 12 Conference, including 11 straight wins.
One note of historic interest is that the game is being played at the site where Louisiana Tech claimed its first national championship title in 1981, defeating Tennessee 79-59 for the AIAW crown.
Saturday's game will be televised in some parts of the country on some Fox Sports Network regional stations while it can also be heard on KXKZ-FM 107.5 and via the Internet at www.z1075fm.com. The pregame show starts at 5:30 p.m.
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