Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters
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REGION: Mideast SEED: 5
COACH: Kurt Budke CONFERENCE: C-USA
Road to the Final Four ...................................................................................
If there are two things Louisiana Tech has always had over the years, it's great posts and great point guards. That holds true this season. And if this team was in any other conference, the Lady Techsters would be ranked among the top four teams in the country. But the WAC lacks respect and it hurts La. Tech's RPI. Still, the Lady Techsters proved they probably deserved better than a fifth seed last year, and will again make noise this March. Kurt Budke is a very good coach and this is a very talented group that dominates the glass and has jets in the backcourt.
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One of the most clutch moments of the 2000 NCAA Tournament? That's easy. It was Frierson, then a freshman, nailing two free throws with two seconds remaining to lift Louisiana Tech over Vanderbilt in the second round. But then, Frierson missed the 2000-01 season with a torn ACL, struggled to return to form in 2001-02, and played in Cheryl Ford's shadow last season despite averaging 15 points and 7.3 rebounds. Frierson, a 6-foot-2 senior forward, was further slowed by more knee surgery this October, but fought on to rank second on the team in both scoring (16.8 points) and rebounding (6.6) in the regular season. Though senior teammate Amisha Carter led La. Tech in both categories and was named WAC MVP, the underrated and often-overlooked Frierson is a good bet to find a way to spice up the Big Dance.
ANALYSIS BY ESPN'S STACEY DALES-SCHUMAN
You want consistency? Try 22 straight NCAA Tournaments, 13 Final Fours, eight Elite Eights and three national championships. This is Louisiana Tech basketball.
I believe the year was 1967 when Aretha Franklin proclaimed, "All I'm askin' ... is for a little respect." While that message has continued to resonate with people all over the world some 37 years later, there is perhaps no one who feels it more than the Lady Techsters.
La. Tech has remained in the top 10 of women's hoops for virtually the entire season, and for good reason. Offensively, the Lady Techsters force a frenetic tempo to average approximately 84 points per game while boasting four players in double figures. When they aren't attacking the open court, they're exercising inside-outside motion fundamentals with a firm emphasis on scoring around the hoop.
Defensively, the Lady Techsters offer a harassing load of player-to-player pressure, both on the ball and in passing lanes, which forces opponents into at least 24 turnovers per game. A full-fledged 94-foot press only helps matters and contributes to a whopping 14 steals per outing.
The team's overall pace is spirited by pure athletes. The two that stand tough inside are senior forwards Trina Frierson and Amisha Carter. A first team All-WAC performer, Frierson can unfailingly plant the 17-foot jumper and spread the floor for her counterpart down low. Carter, successor to the 2003 WNBA Rookie of the Year Cheryl Ford, creates plenty of space on the block where she can effectively use her mobility around the cylinder. Without question, this is the most productive duo in the Western Athletic Conference as league MVP Carter deals a double-double (18 points and almost 11 rebounds), while Frierson tosses in nearly 17 points. They share a combined average of 53.5 percent accuracy from the field.
The final senior to extend Tech's leadership is guard Amber Obaze. She loves the mid-range, pull-up game, but is just another guard on the roster who creates havoc defensively. The heart and soul of the team comes from a sophomore in point guard Tasha Crain. If there is a No. 1 defender for Tech in terms of both energy and quickness, it's Crain. Despite her bursting velocity, she takes extra special care of the ball and knows how to set up her teammates for success. She leads the WAC with a 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
There is no secret to Kurt Budke's system. It's fast, athletic, and his personnel plays hard. So hard, in fact, that they have time and again dominated the WAC conference and prevailed on the national scene. Problem is, they've often been shunned, outcast if you will, because they apparently face little competition in a conference that from top to bottom, has a lack for luster.
The difference is, the Techsters do their best to step outside the boundaries and compete with some of the finest teams in the country. After all, it was La. Tech which handed smokin' Penn State its only home loss of the season. All they're asking for in Ruston, La., is a little respect.
Just to note, La. Tech advanced to the Sweet 16 in last season's tournament before losing a close game to in-state nemesis LSU in Palo Alto, Calif.. With a closely mirrored team this year, don't think the Lady Techsters aren't focused for big things in '04.