BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – For the second time this season, Louisiana Tech held one of Conference USA’s top offensive units in check as the Lady Techsters defeated the 49ers 66-55 Thursday afternoon at Bartow Arena in the Conference USA Quarterfinals.
With the win, LA Tech (18-12) advances to play regular season league champion WKU (25-6) in the C-USA Semifinals. Tipoff for the contest is set for 4:30 p.m. CT at Legacy Arena and the game can be heard on the LA Tech Sports Network on ESPN 97.7 FM and KTKC 92.9 FM. It can also be watched online at AmericanSportsNet.com.
Charlotte entered the game averaging more than 74 points per game and had only been held below 60 three times all year – once in an 80-54 loss to LA Tech on Jan. 12 in Ruston. On Thursday, Tech made it two times.
“I thought it a was very good game today,” said Tech head coach Brooke Stoehr. “Our team came out ready to compete, and we knew Charlotte would be good in transition. I was proud of our group and their energy on the defensive end. We had a lot of contested shots and we were able to get rebounds.”
Tech held Charlotte to only 29 percent (20-68) shooting, including only 10-of-38 from the field in a second half that saw the Lady Techsters push a seven-point halftime lead out to double figures for most of the final two quarters.
Charlotte held a 17-14 lead at the end of the first quarter, but the Lady Techsters outscored the 49ers 20-10 in the second stanza to take a 34-27 advantage into the halftime locker room. Charlotte would cut the deficit down to five on three straight offensive possessions to open the third quarter, but Louisiana Tech always had an answer.
The 49ers entered the game as one of the top three-point shooting teams in C-USA, but it was the Lady Techsters that shot the ball well from beyond the arc. Tech hit 7-of-15 three-pointers in the game, including three of them by senior guard Rochelle Vasquez, who led the Lady Techsters with 16 points in the win.
A Vasquez three-pointer with 5:28 to play in the third quarter pushed the Tech lead to 47-35, forcing Charlotte to burn a timeout. Behind the strong play of sophomore Grace Hunter, the 49ers were able to stay within striking distance. Tech simply wouldn’t allow them to ever make a true run.
Leading 53-42 heading into the fourth quarter, Tech held Charlotte to just 3-of-19 shooting over the final 10 minutes of play.
“Disappointing loss for us,” said Charlotte coach Cara Consuegra. “We had played really well in our last four games because we played with a lot of toughness and fight and I didn’t see that today. LA Tech’s physicality got into our head today. That being said we played better against them this time than we did last time, but we have to be tougher in these situations. You won’t win a lot of games shooting 28 percent.”
The leader of the LA Tech physicality was junior forward Alexus Malone, who scored 15 points and tied her career-high with 15 rebounds. Malone also added four steals, three assists and three blocks in 31 minutes.
“We knew if we could get defensive stops the offense would come,” said Malone. “We went into the locker room at halftime focusing on getting defensive stops because we knew that would convert into offense.”
However, Malone wasn’t a one woman show. In addition to the performances by her and Vasquez, Kierra Anthony added 11 points, Reauna Cleaver scored eight and Anna McLeod added six points and seven rebounds.
“The important thing is we have a young group,” said Stoehr. “It’s important for us to have the right demeanor with this group because they haven’t been in this situation. Any experience like this gives them confidence knowing we’ve played a game in the tournament, and they defended a good offensive team. We know we have a tough task tomorrow with WKU.”
Ciara Gregory led Charlotte with 17 points while Hunter added 16 points.