Defense leads Louisiana Tech to win

El Dorado News-Times - - Sports - By Louisiana Tech Sports In­for­ma­tion

LIT­TLE ROCK – Alexus Malone scored 13 points and Kierra An­thony added 12 points to lead Louisiana Tech to a 58-49 win over Lit­tle Rock at the Jack Stephens Cen­ter Thurs­day night.

With the win, LA Tech (5-4) snapped a three­game los­ing streak and won for the first time in four tries at the Jack Stephens Cen­ter.

The win didn’t come easy as the game pit­ted two teams that pride them­selves on the de­fen­sive end of the floor.

How­ever, Tech shot 51 per­cent from the field, built a 16-point first quar­ter lead and an­swered a Lit­tle Rock run that saw the Tro­jans cut the deficit to five points mid­way through the fourth quar­ter.

The win was just what the Lady Tech­sters needed af­ter drop­ping three straight games.

“We had to do a good job of con­tin­u­ing to stick with our plan and con­tin­u­ing to teach and not get frus­trated and un­der­stand that they are go­ing to make some mis­takes along the way,” said Tech head coach Brooke Stoehr.

“We said three weeks ago be­fore we started this tough stretch that it could get ugly at times be­cause of who we play.”

Fol­low­ing a dis­ap­point­ing loss to Clem­son Mon­day night in a game that saw Tech shoot a sea­son-low 29 per­cent from the field, the Lady Tech­sters came out red hot of­fen­sively against the Tro­jans.

Tech hit its first three shots and 10-of-13 in the open­ing quar­ter to build a 22-7 lead af­ter 10 min­utes of play.

Malone scored eight of her 13 points in a first quar­ter that saw the Lady Tech­sters shot 77 per­cent from the field while hold­ing Lit­tle Rock to just 2-of-11 from the field.

The sec­ond quar­ter saw Lit­tle Rock find its of­fen­sive touch as the Tro­jans hit 9-of-11 field goals, in­clud­ing both of its three-point­ers, to fight back to within nine points at the half.

Lit­tle Rock for­ward Raeyana DeGray scored 12 of her game-high 14 points in the first half to keep the Tro­jans in strik­ing dis­tance.

“They are tough to guard,” said Stoehr. “They are so pa­tient in what they do. They will screen and re­screen and af­ter a while you get hit by 10 screens in a pos­ses­sion and you get pretty tired.

“I thought we did a re­ally good job of forc­ing con­tested shots in the first half. That first quar­ter they went 2 for 11, and I thought that set the tone for the night. I think two very good de­fen­sive teams go­ing at it tonight, and I thought our play­ers re­ally re­sponded well.”

The two teams picked up their de­fen­sive in­ten­sity in the sec­ond half.

Nei­ther Tech nor Lit­tle Rock found any type of space or open looks on the of­fen­sive end as points were at a pre­mium.

The Lady Tech­sters took a 49-41 lead into the fourth quar­ter when the Tro­jans scored the first three points to creep to within 49-44 with less than seven min­utes to play.

That’s when ju­nior guard Kierra An­thony came through in the clutch. An­thony, who it a pair of three-point­ers in the first half, drained a con­tested 18-footer as the shot clock ex­pired with 6:36 to play and then on Tech’s next pos­ses­sion drove down the lane and scored on spin­ning layup, push­ing the ad­van­tage back to nine.

“Those shots were timely,” said Stoehr. “She has looked re­ally down the last cou­ple of days. I think her heart is in the right spot, but she has been try­ing too hard.

“I told her at shoot around to­day that there isn’t pres­sure on her. We just want her to be who she is on the court. She just needed to see one or two of those go down. I thought she had some good mo­ments for us tonight, es­pe­cially those two big buck­ets.”

De­fen­sively, Tech held Lit­tle Rock with­out a made field goal for over a seven minute stretch.

Ron­janae DeGray broke the drought with a layup with 1:09 to play, but by then the lead was in dou­ble dig­its again.

Sopho­more point guard Kierra Lang re­turned to the floor for Tech af­ter miss­ing the last five games with an in­jury. Stoehr said her pres­ence was felt.

“She hit a big shot for us in the third quar­ter,” said Stoehr. “She just brings a calm to our team. I think it re­ally helped Am­ber (Dixon) tonight be more re­laxed.

“I thought Am­ber got us off to a great start tonight on both ends of the floor. Be­cause of Kierra’s pres­ence it al­lowed Am­ber to be much more re­laxed and calm.

“I think hav­ing Kierra back takes a lot of pres­sure off a lot of our play­ers. I think we came out tonight with a great sense of pur­pose and a de­sire to help each other out and not try to do too much.”

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