RUSTON, La. – Kierra Anthony
scored 35 points and Louisiana Tech built a double digit halftime lead and cruised to an 80-71 win over Ole Miss Saturday afternoon before 1,527 fans at the Thomas Assembly Center.
In a game that was promoted as "Christmas at the TAC," Anthony played Santa Claus delivering a present in the form of a win to the LA Tech fans in attendance, hitting 11-of-22 field goals and 13-of-13 free throws in 35 minutes of action.
"You almost can't double or triple team her," said Tech head coach Brooke Stoehr
. "You got Raizel (Guinto) with 13 points and Taylor (Stahly) with 13 points and Grayson can score it. I guess they could and someone probably will at some point, but Kierra is taking really good shots for us.
"I thought outside of one shot, they were all really, really good shots. Because teams do have to guard the three-point line with us, it's giving her space and she is doing a really good job of attacking and getting to the free throw line. 13 of 13 and seven boards. She was just really solid."
The performance marks the seventh 20-plus point effort in 10 games for Anthony and her second 30-plus point effort of the year.
In a game that saw 55 fouls called and the two teams combine to shoot 69 free throws (Tech 29-of-39, Ole Miss 21-of-30), it was Louisiana Tech that overcame the whistles for its second win over an SEC team over the past three games.
"We haven't had a game called like that all year," said Stoehr. "Typically those are called the first week or two of the season, and I thought it affected both teams. But I thought our team responded, and we got some great minutes off the bench."
After a first quarter that saw a 23-23 tie, LA Tech used a run late in the second quarter to build a 47-37 halftime lead. Freshman forward DeAndre'a Alexander
was a big part of the second quarter success, scoring five points and grabbing six rebounds during the 10-minutes of basketball as Tech closed the quarter on a 12-3 run.
"I thought DeAndre'a was big for us tonight," said Stoehr. "We talk about winning moments a lot and you never know when they will happen in the flow of the game. I thought the offensive rebounds she chased down off a missed free throw in the corner late in the second quarter was one of those moments.
"(La'Karis) Salter picked up her fourth foul on the play, and it really changed the game because she was scoring for them. I thought a moment like that for a freshman was big. She is coming along. We really needed her strength and her size in this game. She got to the free throw line and had eight boards in 15 minutes. She really grew up today. It was a big day for her."
Ole Miss (5-7) responded early in the second half, twice cutting the Tech advantage down to five points (49-44, 52-47). But two free throws by Anthony and a three-pointer by Stahly pushed the lead back to double digits for Tech. An Anthony layup with 4:56 to play in the third quarter pushed the advantage to double figures at 61-51 and Ole Miss wouldn't get the deficit under double digits until a free throw by Shandricka Sessom with 1:29 to play in the game closed the gap to nine.
Sessom led Ole Miss with 20 points although LA Tech held the Rebels leading scorer Crystal Allen (17.6 ppg) to only seven points on 2-of-17 shooting.
"We put Taylor on her and said limit her looks early," said Stoehr. "If you limit her looks in transition early, she can get frustrated. I think she was 2-of-10 at halftime and 0-for-7 in the second half. I thought we defended her really well. I am not sure other than the first shot of the game that she made a contested shot. We have to get better with it. But we held their leading scorer to 7 and we forced 23 turnovers."
With a 7-3 record, LA Tech is off to its best start through 10 games since the 2009-10 team started the year 7-3.
"I thought our focus and energy on both sides of the floor was really good," said Stoehr. "As frustrated as we were offensively Wednesday night, I thought we were so much more crisp and just moved the ball a lot better today. I thought we got a little passive and stopped attacking in last eight minutes. We had an 18 point lead and got a little passive and let them back in it, but I'm really proud of our focus and our attention to detail and our attention to the scouting report."
Tech returns to action Dec. 20 when it face Missouri State at the UMKC Roo Holiday Classic in Kansas City, Missouri. Tech will also play UMKC Dec. 21 before taking off for the Christmas break.