Lady Techsters Run Away With Semi
By Jim Brady
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, March 28, 1998; Page E4
KANSAS CITY, March 27 North Carolina State kept Louisiana Tech out of its transition game for the first few minutes of tonight's women's NCAA tournament national semifinal, but once the Lady Techsters started running, they didn't stop until they'd locked up a berth in Sunday's championship game.
Louisiana Tech used a 22-8 run early in the second half to turn a decent lead into an insurmountable one and went on to an 84-65 victory over the Wolfpack before a full house at Kemper Arena. The Lady Techsters will face Tennessee (38-0) for the national title.
"We had to keep running because that's our game," said Louisiana Tech guard LaQuan Stallworth, who had 18 points and nine assists. "That's what coach [Leon Barmore] told us: Just keep running the ball."
Louisiana Tech won despite an incredible effort from North Carolina State center Chasity Melvin, who set a women's NCAA tournament semifinal record with 37 points and added nine rebounds.
The Lady Techsters, who won national championships in 1982 and 1988, will be playing in their sixth NCAA title game. Their last appearance was in 1994, when they lost to North Carolina, 60-59, on Charlotte Smith's three-pointer at the buzzer. They fell to Tennessee in the 1987 championship game, 67-44.
Louisiana Tech (31-3) was led tonight by its starting five, which played 171 of a possible 200 minutes and produced 76 points. Forward Amanda Wilson led the way with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Forward Monica Maxwell added 14 points and 12 rebounds and guard Tamicha Jackson had 16 points and five assists.
No. 4 seed North Carolina State (25-7) was a surprise participant here, having emerged from the East Region with upsets of top-seeded Old Dominion and second-seeded Connecticut. The Wolfpack won those games using a methodical style and by controlling the inside. But the Wolfpack couldn't do either against the Lady Techsters, despite Melvin, who single-handedly kept the Wolfpack in the game for 20 minutes.
"We were just out-executed," North Carolina State Coach Kay Yow said. "‚. . . We haven't had problems in transition all year long the way we had tonight."
Despite controlling the tempo most of the first half, the Lady Techsters held a modest 41-34 lead with 19 minutes 8 seconds to play. But Alisa Burras's layup sparked a 12-0 run that took just three minutes. When Wilson capped the burst with a transition layup, the score was 53-34. The Wolfpack never got closer than 16 again.
"I think our running the transition game gave us the lead we had," Maxwell said. "‚. . . Whenever they got in the half court and got the ball to Melvin, she was virtually unstoppable."
The pace of the game also kept the Wolfpack from utilizing its height advantage. Reserve 6-foot-6 center Summer Erb, who averaged 14.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in the victories over Old Dominion and Connecticut, played only seven minutes, finishing with two points and one rebound.
"I thought we were going to have to deal with Summer Erb more than we did," Barmore said.
Said Yow: "Tonight, I think it was harder for her because the [Louisiana Tech] inside people ran the floor so well. And they were very aggressive."
In the game's first few minutes, it was the Wolfpack that controlled the pace, bringing the ball upcourt slowly and patiently working the ball inside to Melvin. And when she made two free throws with 14:07 remaining in the first half, North Carolina State led, 10-6.
But, soon after, the Lady Techsters picked up the pace noticeably, and that resulted in a series of transition baskets and, eventually, a 14-0 run. Maxwell made two three-pointers during that run, which gave Louisiana Tech a 20-10 lead with 9:22 left before halftime.
But the Lady Techsters were unable to extend that lead because of Melvin. She scored on a variety of short hooks and jumpers and had 16 points by halftime.
In the 14o minutes after forward Tynesha Lewis scored the Wolfpack's first basket of the second half, Melvin had 16 of its next 18 points. After Melvin, the Wolfpack's next highest scorers were Lewis and forward LySchale Jones, who each scored seven points.
"I'm just excited and happy that I could play this well for my coaches and my teammates," Melvin said. "I just tried to do the best that I could. . . . I wanted to play until that buzzer went off."