Louisiana Tech 68, Fresno St. 66

Louisiana Tech knew it had to win the Western Athletic

Conference tournament title to make the school’s first trip back to

the NCAA tourney since 2006.

Star forward Shanavia Dowdell still isn’t sure exactly how they

did it.

The 6-foot-2 senior had 20 points and 19 rebounds and Jasmine

Bendolph hit an 18-footer with 33 seconds left to help snap

top-seeded Fresno State’s 19-game winning streak with a 68-66 upset

Saturday in the WAC title game.

“I don’t know what got into me,” said Dowdell, the tourney

MVP. “I was just out there saying, ‘Let’s go.’ I just wanted to

help my team any way I could.”

Whitney Jones added 13 points and Tarkeisha Wysinger and

Adrienne Johnson 10 each for the Lady Techsters (23-8), who had

been to 25 consecutive NCAA tournaments until the streak ended in

the 2006-07 season. They won the national championship in 1988 and

were the runner-up in 1983, 1987, 1994 and 1998.

“It was beautiful to see how hard our kids wanted it,” Tech

coach Teresa Weatherspoon said.

“The key today was simple. It was who wanted it the most,” she

said. “Our kids played their hearts out.”

Hayley Munro had 15 points and Jaleesa Ross 14 for Fresno State

(27-6), which shot only 34 percent from the field and was

out-rebounded 49-35 but should still receive an at-large bid to the

NCAA tourney.

“It took a good effort to beat us,” Fresno State coach Adrian

Wiggins said.

“Thankfully this isn’t the last basketball game this team will

play this year. We’re looking forward to the next step. … We

still have our goals ahead of us,” he said.

“La Tech is very physical. This game will be good for us. NCAA

teams are very physical. We have to be ready for that,” Wiggins

said.

Saturday’s game was in doubt until the final buzzer, and

Weatherspoon knew it would be.

“To beat them you have to keep playing hard the whole 40

minutes. Fresno won’t quit coming,” she said. “That’s a good

basketball team we beat today.”

After Bendolph’s shot put Tech up 67-66, Fresno’s Joh-Teena

Filipe missed a 3-point attempt with 14 seconds left. Dowdell made

one free throw but missed another with 6 seconds left. Filipe

rebounded and passed to LaShay Fears but her shot in traffic in the

lane missed as time expired.

“It hurts to lose,” said Ross, a junior who was named to the

all-tournament team and last year became the first player to be

named the WAC tourney MVP two years in a row. “We have to rebound

harder the next time if we want to keep advancing.”

Fresno State’s last loss was Dec. 30 to No. 2 Stanford, 68-46.

The Bulldogs averaged outscoring WAC opponents this year by nearly

19 points a game. But Tech was in the game from the start and

scored the first 10 points of the second half, including

consecutive 3-pointers by Jones to take a 46-37 lead.

Fresno freshman Rosie Moult had a pair of 3-pointers and Emma

Andrews one to cut it to 54-52 midway through the half.

Dowdell’s jumper made it 58-54 with 9:29 left. But Fresno State

ran off 7 unanswered points when Ross sandwiched a pair of buckets

around Munro’s 3-point play on a drive and a foul shot to put the

Bulldogs on top 61-58 before Brietta Thomas’ 3-pointer tied it

61-61 at 7:39.

After Ross made a pair of free throws, Wysinger hit a jumper to

make it 63-63. Fears made a layup to put Fresno in front 65-63 with

4 minutes left. Bendolph’s jumper tied it again at 3:23 and Fears

gave the Bulldogs their last lead 66-65 at 2:19 before Bendolph

made what proved to be the game-winner.

Jones made back-to-back 3-pointers and Dowdell hit four of her

first five shots to put the Lady Techsters ahead 22-14 midway

through the first half. They pushed the lead to 33-23 when Dowdell

followed a 15-foot jumper with a 3-pointer at the 4-minute

mark.

The Bulldogs had four turnovers the first 8 minutes of the game

but none the rest of the half. They closed the first half with a

15-3 run keyed by consecutive 3-pointers from Filipe and Munro to

take a 37-36 halftime lead.