Louisiana Tech has a special place in Women's Bouncy Ball history. Under Sonja Hogg and Leon Barmore, the Lady Techsters* won 3 national championships (1 AIAW, 2 NCAA) and were fixtures in Women's March Madness. For 5 of those years, our own Gary Blair was an assistant at La Tech. While Coach Blair worked for Hogg and Barmore, La Tech won those 2 titles and never finished worse than the Elite 8. But that was before the current players on either team were born. Since the late Kurt Budke left La Tech for Oklahoma State, the Techsters have been ranked once, and have finished unranked every season since 2006-7.
The last NCAA title for La Tech was in 1987-88. The Lady Techsters were a 2 seed and knocked off 3 consecutive 1 seeds: Texas (on their court in the Elite 8), Tennessee, and Auburn. The Lady Techsters were led by guard Teresa Weatherspoon, who would go on to be a Hall of Fame player and WNBA All-Star. Weatherspoon has been the coach at La Tech since 2008. Last year, Spoon led an overmatched La Tech team into Reed on Dec 4 and was overwhelmed 77-26. The Ags held La Tech to 6 points in the first half.
In the wake of last week's loss to St. John's, Coach Blair tweaked the starting lineup by inserting Tori Scott for Achiri Ade. This moved Courtney Williams to the 4 spot with Tori taking CWill's normal slot at the 3. Karla Gilbert, Courtney Walker, and Jordan Jones started at their usual positions. This year's game started similarly to last year's as the Ags got off to a 12-0 run over the first 3:15. New players and new rules meant that La Tech broke the shutout earlier when Christassia Walker hit a jumper to make it 12-2, but the score was still lopsided at half as A&M went into the locker room with a 51-25 lead. The second half was on cruise control as the Ags experimented with zones, small lineups, and a twin towers version with Karla Gilbert and Rachel Mitchell playing together.
Courtney Williams responded to the move by scoring a career high 22 points on 9-12 shooting, including 3-3 from 3. Williams added 10 boards for one double-double. The second double-double went to PG Jordan Jones, who combined 11 points and 13 assists (another career high). Gilbert and Walker each scored 10, Tori had 8 and contributed a lot to an up-tempo pace. No Ag played more than 26 minutes, so we saw lots of the bench. Mitchell had one of her best games with 4 boards and 3 blocks in just 8 minutes of action. Chelsea Jennings had 6 of the Ags 13 steals.
Leading scorer Whitney Frazier led La Tech with 15 points and 11 boards, and freshman guard JaQuan Jackson added 14, shooting 4-10 from 3 point land; she was 0-5 closer in. The Lady Techsters left Reed with exactly twice their 2012 total.
This game was a confidence-builder against a weak opponent, so once again, it's not clear what we learned. But it was good for the Ags to see some shots fall: overall A&M shot 51.6% and the starters were 24-37. Ade off the bench showed some nice short jumpers that will be useful when the lane is clogged; in other games she had a tendency to get closer but more into the teeth of the D. We actually ran some good picks against the zone.
The main negative is that the Ags had 17 turnovers. In the post-game radio coverage, Assistant Coach Bob Starkey noted that as an ongoing problem. It seemed to me that some of Jones' 5 turnovers came when she tried to make passes that would be spectacular plays - one of our group said one missed fast break long bomb reminded him of some of Manziel's "getting greedy" INTs. Other times she makes passes that are just too hot or low for the posts, especially Karla, to handle on the run.
A&M is back in action on Monday night, as 6-5 Arkansas State comes to Reed at 7PM for the last WBB game of 2013. The Red Wolves are led by 5-9 RS Soph Guard Aundrea Gamble from McKinney, Texas. Gamble leads the team in points/game (18.7), assists/game (3.3), rebounds per game (6.7), steals (23,) 3-pointers made (17), and minutes/game (33.9). Three other starters are averaging double digits in points. As a team ASU is averaging 72.5 ppg and giving up 69.8. They've scored 90+ 3 times. Their lowest production was 47 in a loss to Wichita State. They gave up 93 to N. Carolina.
* The team mascot is a Bulldog, but I've never heard anyone call the WBB team Lady Bulldogs.