Louisiana Tech, a team that starts three freshmen and two sophomores, came back to stun top-ranked, foul-plagued Old Dominion, 59-57, in the final of the Manufactures Hanover Christmas Women's basketball tournament today.
In the consolation game, Maryland upset sixth-ranked Rutgers, 78-77. The four games of the tournament were decided by a total of 16 points.
Old Dominion, after an unimpressive 66-58 win over Maryland Saturday, looked ready to blow Louisiana Tech off the floor, building a 13-point lead in the first five minutes. But Tech closed to 37-33 at half.
In the second half, Tech's Jennifer White put on a dazzling playmaking exhibition while forward Lori Scott and backup center Janice Mulford controlled the backboards.
The previously undefeated Monarchs, deep in foul trouble with stars Nancy Lieberman and Inge Nissen on the bench with four each, fell behind, 58-51, with 3:19 left.
The Monarch, now 10-1, threw away two passes before guard Angela Cotman connected on a jumper to cut the lead to five with 2:30 to play. Then the Monarchs committed three more turnovers in the next two minutes, in which both teams went scoreless.
With 17 seconds left, Cotman had a chance to bring the Monarchs within two after she scored on a layup and was fouled. But Tech called a "make-her-think-about-it" timeout, Cotman missed the foul shot and Scott was fouled on the rebound. Scott made two free throws to give Tech a 59-55 lead with five seconds left. Lieberman's shot at the buzzer accounted for the final two points.
"The media has given Old Dominion this image of immortality," Lieberman said. "We make mistakes . . . we made a lot today. When your opponent shoots 29 foul shots to your 13, you're in trouble."
With tears running down her face Tech Coach Sonja Hogg said, "They're tears of joy . . . this team has so much heart."
Tech (16-1) lost to Old Dominion in the national championship final last year.
"We crammed a lot of basketball into ourselves," said White, named the tournament's most valuable player. "We had a meeting before the game and we knew we had to contain Nancy Lieberman and shut off their inside game. At first, neither worked. But in the second half, we shut off everything. Defense won this game."
"We do have our problems," said Old Dominion Coach Marianne Stanley. "We're just going to have to go out and work 10 times harder."
Liberman added, "You don't win with Inge Nissen sitting down."
Nissen, the powerful forward said, "I was scared to play defense because the whistles were so quick. The last two fouls on me were clean blocks."
Nissen and Lieberman had 14 points each while Tech's Pam Kelly and Mulford shared game honors with 15 each.
In the consolation game, Kris Kirchner emerged from a nightmarish performance with two key denfesive plays and two game-winning foul shots in the last 17 seconds to give Maryland its fifth victory in six starts. s
The Terps, sluggish and sloppy in the first half, woke up in the second and seemed to have the game won as they held an eight-pont edge with 4:16 remaining. Rutgers (6-2) then employed a full-court press and threw the Treps offense completely out of kilter. Rutgers had the lead, 75-74, and the ball with 17 seconds left.
In a back-court press, Kirchner made a diving effort for a steal and managed to force a jump ball. Kirchner controlled the tap, and Lydia McAliley was fouled. She made both ends of the one and one to give Maryland a one-point edge. Then Kirchner set herself up perfectly to draw an offensive foul on Patty Coyle. Kirchner sank two foul shots to clinch the victory.
The Terps were kept in the game by guard Myra Walters, who scored 29 points. Kirchner added 16, but was continually at odds with the officiating.
"We are pretty flat in the first half," said Terp Coach Chris Weller. "We played the late game last night and the early game today."
Kirchner added, "My knees were a little tired after going all out last night. But I'm happy I came through with some big plays at the end. We're a young team and they look to me for big plays."