Louisana Tech 84, N.C. State 65
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Look who’s back in the national championship game.
Louisiana Tech returned to the Final Four with a flourish Friday night, running past North Carolina State for an 84-65 national semifinal victory and its sixth trip to the NCAA title game.
Playing in its ninth Final Four but its first in four years, Tech will meet heavily favored Tennessee or Arkansas for the title Sunday night. The Lady Techsters, who won national titles in 1982 and 1988, lost 75-61 at Tennessee to start the season.
Flying downcourt for easy baskets all game long, Louisiana Tech took control of the game with a 14-0 first-half run and put it away with a 12-0 surge early in the second half.
Amanda Wilson scored 14 of her 20 points in those two bursts to go with 11 rebounds as the Lady Techsters (31-3) spoiled the Final Four debut of Kay Yow, North Carolina State’s longtime coach.
Yow has won 522 games in her 23 seasons, but she never had been as far as the regional finals before this year. The Wolfpack (25-7), who finished the season ranked No. 10, upset No. 2 Old Dominion and No. 3 Connecticut to reach the national semifinals, but their size was no match for the quickness of No. 4 Tech.
Chasity Melvin, the Wolfpack’s 6-foot-3 forward, set a national semifinal record with 37 points, two more than Tennessee’s Mary Ostrowski scored against Cheyney in 1984, the tournament’s third year.
But Tech took away the rest of North Carolina State’s powerful inside game and raced to an 18-0 advantage in fast break points to return to the national championship game for the first time since a 60-59 loss to North Carolina in 1994. That was the year Charlotte Smith stunned the Lady Techsters with a 3-pointer at the buzzer off an inbounds play with seventh-tenths of a second remaining.
LaQuan Stallworth had 18 points and nine assists for the Lady Techsters, and Monica Maxwell had 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Tech trailed 10-6 when Melvin made two free throws six minutes into the game. Maxwell followed with the first of her three first-half 3-pointers to start Tech on a 14-0 burst. Maxwell had another 3-pointer in the run and Wilson scored eight points, all of them inside against the bigger Wolfpack, as Tech took a 20-10 lead.
Wilson went to the bench with her second foul with 4:56 left in the half, and North Carolina State closed to 33-28 when 5-5 backup guard Kenyatta Williams, the Wolfpack’s smallest player, scored on a drive with 3:59 remaining.
But the 5-6 Stallworth took advantage of her rare height advantage over Williams in the final three minutes. Stallworth hit two jumpers in the lane over Williams, then fed Priya Gilmore and Jamie Scheppmann for baskets to give Tech a 41-32 halftime lead.
North Carolina State committed 15 of its 19 turnovers in the first half, and after Tynesha Lewis scored the first basket of the second half for the Wolfpack, Tech scored the next 12 points to take a 53-34 lead.
The Wolfpack missed eight straight shots in that segment and the Lady Techsters scored on six of seven possessions, turning rebounds into a blitz of fast-break points to put the game away.