Saturday, March 24, 2001

Louisiana Tech 78, Missouri 67




By ALAN ROBINSON
AP Sports Writer

        PITTSBURGH — Leon Barmore wasn't ready for retirement — and neither were his Lady Techsters, who are back in the NCAA final eight despite an offseason upheaval.

        Takeisha Lewis, taking over as Missouri's front line got into foul trouble, had 20 of her 27 points in the second half as Louisiana Tech relied on its tournament poise to beat the Tigers 78-67 Saturday and reach the East Regional final.

        Brooke Lassiter had 25 points, including five in a quick flurry with just under two minutes remaining after Missouri — a 10th-seeded team playing in NCAA women's round of 16 for the first time since 1982 — had closed within four points.

        “I'll tell you one thing, this bunch has a lot of heart,” said Barmore, one of the most successful coaches ever, with 521 victories. “We've got no seniors, and look where we came from. We've gotten everything out of this team we could possibly get.”

        The Techsters are in a regional final for the fourth consecutive season, even though Barmore retired for 17 days before being coaxed back last year and Tech lost six key players and two assistants coaches from a regional final team.

        “The whole year has been a battle, but we're just hungry for this championship,” Lassiter said.

        Tech will play defending national champion Connecticut in Monday's regional final. UConn beat North Carolina State 72-58 Saturday.

        Lewis got the Techsters in front in the second half, but it was the 5-foot-9 Lassiter who kept them there.

        With Louisiana Tech leading 64-60 and trying to run down the clock, Lassiter slowly brought the ball over the time line, drove to the baseline and back out, then hit a fallaway as the clock shot ran out.

        Then, quickly getting off the floor, she jumped up and made a steal off the inbounds pass, hit a layup and finished off the three-point play by making the free throw to increase Tech's lead to 69-60 with 1:38 remaining.

        “What did that mean? Just the ballgame,” Barmore said. “That was a great shot she made, the fallaway. It was the play of the game.”

        Missouri coach Cindy Stein agreed, saying she was certain “until there were 10 seconds left in the game” that the Tigers ultimately would come back.

        The Tigers' Kerensa Barr also got a sinking feeling when she saw Lassiter's shot from along the left baseline fall in.

        “We were on a run, and she kind of turned it over and got it back and it went in,” Barr said. “They really got it going, and that play really started it.”

        By then, Missouri (22-10) had lost 6-foot-1 Evan Unrau and leading scorer Amanda Lassiter, who scored 19 points, to fouls, and 6-2 Marlena Williams was playing with four fouls.

        The 6-2 Lewis, whose previous career high was 21 points last season, also had 17 rebounds as Tech outrebounded Missouri 49-28.

        “Last year at this time, if she didn't start off well, you lost her for the game,” Barmore said. “We stayed with her this year, and it paid off.”

        Lewis was nearly unstoppable during a 10-minute streak of the second half, scoring eight points during a 16-2 run that put Tech on top 48-38.

        Later, Lewis had six points during a 10-4 run that gave the Lady Techsters their biggest lead at 64-53.

        “The plan was to take it to them and get it inside,” said Lewis, who was bothered by a sore throat and sinus problem that developed hours before the game. “When they got in foul trouble, it just made it that much easier. The game started very slow for me, but I just relaxed and let it come to me.”

        Ayana Walker added 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Techsters (31-4), who have won 19 consecutive games — second best in the country to Xavier's 21 — en route to Monday's regional final.

        Barr had 11 points and Tracy Franklin had 10 for Missouri, which was coming off the biggest upset of the tournament so far, a 78-65 victory over second-seeded Georgia in Athens.

        Missouri, trying to become the first Big 12 team to reach the women's national semifinals, didn't get off to a good start by making only one of its first 10 shots.

        But the Tigers still stayed close with the help of 11 first-half Tech turnovers, despite going 0-for-11 on 3-pointers before halftime. They finished 4-of-21, with Amanda Lassiter hitting two in a row to start the second half as Missouri briefly took the lead.

Complete tournament coverage at Cincinnati.com



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