Dec. 11, 2011
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RUSTON - Freshman Courtney Hayes free throw with 23.5 seconds to play lifted Louisiana Tech to a 63-62 win over Mississippi State Sunday afternoon before 2,243 fans at the Thomas Assembly Center.
After Hayes hit 1-of-2 free throws to give Tech (4-6) the one-point advantage, Mississippi State (7-2) had one last opportunity to win. However, Diamber Johnson's off-balance floater in the lane was short and Tech prevented the Bulldogs from getting the offensive board as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
"Our kids were undersized but you saw the fight in them at the end of this game," said Tech head coach Teresa Weatherspoon. "We refused to allow a second opportunity on that miss. Our kids were jumping and jumping and jumping just trying to keep the ball away from them, and then you saw three or four bodies on the floor on the loose ball. I am proud of the way we fought and the effort we gave today."
After trailing for the majority of the game - Tech didn't take its first lead until Jasmine Bendolph's three-pointer with 13:08 to play in the game - , the Lady Techsters fought back and took an eight-point lead at 61-53 with 1:50 to play on a driving layup by Kiara Young.
Johnson hit a free throw to cut it to seven points and then completed a conventional three-point play with 1:13 to play to close the gap to 61-57. On the play, Bendolph was whistled for her fifth foul as the senior point guard left the game as Weatherspoon inserted Hayes.
Back-to-back turnovers by Tech allowed Mississippi State to cut the deficit to 61-60 with less than a minute to play. Hayes hit 1-of-2 free throws with 47 seconds left to push the advantage to 62-20 before Johnson's short jumper in the lane tied the game at 62-62 with 36 seconds left.
After a Tech timeout, Porsha Porter was called for a foul attempting a steal on the inbounds play in front of the Lady Techster bench, sending Hayes to the free throw line for the eventual winner.
"Jasmine knows how important she is to us, and she knows we need her in the game down the stretch," Weatherspoon said. "But I thought Courtney grew up a lot by being put in that situation. It was a good experience for her."
Tech's bench came up big in the win as Young, Angie Felton, Brittany Hardy and Tavasha Anderson combined to score 32 points and pull down 17 rebounds.
"That was big for us," Weatherspoon said. "Tavasha Anderson made some strong moves inside and really wanted to battle with their bigs. Angie Felton ... her numbers might not pop off this box score but she was big with her leadership and her defense down the stretch. And I'm proud of Kiara Young. She didn't play in our last game due to violation of team rules, but she didn't hang her head. She accepted the consequences and came out here with a lot of energy and fire today."
Mississippi State, which entered the game shooting only 26 percent from the three-point line as a team, hit 8-of-16 from behind the arc in the opening 20 minutes as Johnson and Porsha Porter combined to hit seven and scored 30 of the Bulldogs' 35 points.
Tech shot only 28 percent (10-36) from the field in the opening half and trailed 35-28 at the break.
However, the Lady Techsters hit 44 percent (11-25) from the field in the second half and attacked the basket, getting to the free throw line a total of 29 times - 18 coming in the final 20 minutes of play.
Defensively, Tech held the Bulldogs to only 33 percent (22-66) from the field and forced 18 turnovers, outscoring MSU 17-7 on points off of turnovers.
Bendolph led Tech with 12 points while Kiara Young added 10 points. Felton and Hardy each scored nine points.
Johnson led Mississippi State with 25 points on 10-of-28 shooting while Porter added 23 points.
The Lady Techsters return to action Tuesday when they travel to face Arkansas State at 7 p.m. at the Convocation Center in Jonesboro, Ark.