CBKB: LaTech women upset Fresno State for WAC title, 68-66
Associated Press Writer
RENO, Nev. — Louisiana Tech knew it had to win the Western Athletic Conference tournament title to make the school's first trip back to the NCAA tourney since 2006.
Star forward Shanavia Dowdell still isn't sure exactly how they did it.
The 6-foot-2 senior had 20 points and 19 rebounds and Jasmine Bendolph hit an 18-footer with 33 seconds left to help snap top-seeded Fresno State's 19-game winning streak with a 68-66 upset Saturday in the WAC title game.
"I don't know what got into me," said Dowdell, the tourney MVP. "I was just out there saying, 'Let's go.' I just wanted to help my team any way I could."
Whitney Jones added 13 points and Tarkeisha Wysinger and Adrienne Johnson 10 each for the Lady Techsters (23-8), who had been to 25 consecutive NCAA tournaments until the streak ended in the 2006-07 season. They won the national championship in 1988 and were the runner-up in 1983, 1987, 1994 and 1998.
"It was beautiful to see how hard our kids wanted it," Tech coach Teresa Weatherspoon said.
"The key today was simple. It was who wanted it the most," she said. "Our kids played their hearts out."
Hayley Munro had 15 points and Jaleesa Ross 14 for Fresno State (27-6), which shot only 34 percent from the field and was out-rebounded 49-35 but should still receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tourney.
"It took a good effort to beat us," Fresno State coach Adrian Wiggins said.
"Thankfully this isn't the last basketball game this team will play this year. We're looking forward to the next step. ... We still have our goals ahead of us," he said.
"La Tech is very physical. This game will be good for us. NCAA teams are very physical. We have to be ready for that," Wiggins said.
Saturday's game was in doubt until the final buzzer, and Weatherspoon knew it would be.
"To beat them you have to keep playing hard the whole 40 minutes. Fresno won't quit coming," she said. "That's a good basketball team we beat today."
After Bendolph's shot put Tech up 67-66, Fresno's Joh-Teena Filipe missed a 3-point attempt with 14 seconds left. Dowdell made one free throw but missed another with 6 seconds left. Filipe rebounded and passed to LaShay Fears but her shot in traffic in the lane missed as time expired.
"It hurts to lose," said Ross, a junior who was named to the all-tournament team and last year became the first player to be named the WAC tourney MVP two years in a row. "We have to rebound harder the next time if we want to keep advancing."
Fresno State's last loss was Dec. 30 to No. 2 Stanford, 68-46. The Bulldogs averaged outscoring WAC opponents this year by nearly 19 points a game. But Tech was in the game from the start and scored the first 10 points of the second half, including consecutive 3-pointers by Jones to take a 46-37 lead.
Fresno freshman Rosie Moult had a pair of 3-pointers and Emma Andrews one to cut it to 54-52 midway through the half.
Dowdell's jumper made it 58-54 with 9:29 left. But Fresno State ran off 7 unanswered points when Ross sandwiched a pair of buckets around Munro's 3-point play on a drive and a foul shot to put the Bulldogs on top 61-58 before Brietta Thomas' 3-pointer tied it 61-61 at 7:39.
After Ross made a pair of free throws, Wysinger hit a jumper to make it 63-63. Fears made a layup to put Fresno in front 65-63 with 4 minutes left. Bendolph's jumper tied it again at 3:23 and Fears gave the Bulldogs their last lead 66-65 at 2:19 before Bendolph made what proved to be the game-winner.
Jones made back-to-back 3-pointers and Dowdell hit four of her first five shots to put the Lady Techsters ahead 22-14 midway through the first half. They pushed the lead to 33-23 when Dowdell followed a 15-foot jumper with a 3-pointer at the 4-minute mark.
The Bulldogs had four turnovers the first 8 minutes of the game but none the rest of the half. They closed the first half with a 15-3 run keyed by consecutive 3-pointers from Filipe and Munro to take a 37-36 halftime lead.