ASU faces biggest test with La. Tech

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 13, 2004

[12/13/04] Louisiana Tech is coming off a two-game losing streak. Its two best players are out, and several others are nursing injuries. And a matchup with perennial national powerhouse Tennessee looms on the horizon.

None of that figures to dampen the energy in the Whitney Complex tonight, however, when the Lady Techsters come to Lorman to face Alcorn State. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m.

It’s the first time Alcorn has played such a marquee opponent in the regular season since facing Illinois and Clemson in the 2000-01 season. And it’s the first time such a big-name opponent has come to Lorman in nearly 15 years.

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“It came about because we were lacking one game, they were lacking one game, and as much as we travel it’s nice to take a two-hour bus trip instead of a five- or six-hour trip,” Louisiana Tech coach Kurt Budke said.

The game, the first meeting between the schools since the 2000 NCAA Tournament, is the first in a home-and-home series. Alcorn will travel to Ruston next season.

Both teams are coming off disappointing losses.

Alcorn suffered a 78-65 setback to Houston Baptist on Thursday, snapping a two-game winning streak. Houston Baptist went 11-for-14 from the free throw line in the final 3 minutes to preserve the victory.

Louisiana Tech, meanwhile, had a shocking loss on Dec. 4. Illinois’ Angelina Williams hit a 40-footer with 2.7 seconds to play to force overtime, and the Illini went on to hand Tech its first loss at home against an unranked opponent since 1991. It also ended a 31-game home winning streak overall.

Budke said the loss was a combination of injuries, fatigue, and plain bad luck. It was Tech’s fourth game in seven days, and a series of minor injuries forced several inexperienced players onto the court by the end of the game.

“We came off four games in seven days, and you just shouldn’t do that to anybody. We’re not very deep, and that hurt us a lot,” Budke said. “When she banked that thing in, we had nothing left.”

Besides the absence of preseason Western Athletic Conference player of the year Erica Taylor, who is expecting a child, and former Provine star Tosha Christmas, who is out with an injury, Tech lost three starters from last year’s team.

The consecutive losses to Mississippi State and Illinois dropped Louisiana Tech out of the Top 25 for the first time since 1991. And the going doesn’t get any easier after Alcorn. No. 9 Tennessee visits Ruston on Wednesday, and Tech faces Oklahoma at the Nike Classic in Eugene, Ore., on Saturday.

Budke said all of the recent adversity should keep his team on its toes for tonight’s game.

“The way we’re playing right now, I don’t think there’s any danger of us looking past anybody,” he said.