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La. Tech survives Alcorn scare

Alcorn State’s Tanika Nunez, bottom, struggles for control of the ball as Louisiana Tech’s Shan Moore reaches around her during the Lady Techsters’ 62-61 victory on Monday night in Lorman. (Jon GiffinThe Vicksburg Post)

[12/14/04] LORMAN The Whitney Complex was ready to erupt.

Alcorn State was on the verge of doing the unthinkable. Of slaying the basketball beast named Louisiana Tech and winning the biggest game the building had seen in years.

Then one free throw missed. And another. Finally, Shan Moore put an end to all the ruckus and made the outcome little more than an eyebrow-raiser.

Moore, a sophomore guard for Louisiana Tech, blocked Rasaan Powell’s short jumper with 2.7 seconds to play as the Lady Techsters survived a scare from Alcorn State on Monday, 62-61.

Moore led Tech with 18 points and nine rebounds, and Tasha Crain added 13 points. Vernette Skeete scored 15 for Alcorn, LaToya Johnson had 10, and Powell had 12 points and 13 rebounds.

Alcorn (2-3) was game, but faltered down the stretch. The Lady Braves squandered a 13-point second-half lead and missed two free throws in the last 36 seconds that would have tied it, all before Powell’s last-ditch shot was deflected.

“That hurt worse that sticking my finger down in a meat grinder,” Alcorn coach Shirley Walker said. “The way we played in the whole game, I really thought we were going to win it. We should have won it. Down the stretch, you’ve got to make your free throws.”

Alcorn overcame a poor shooting performance in the first half by outhustling Louisiana Tech (4-2). The Lady Braves shot just 31.4 percent (11-for-35) in the first 20 minutes, but grabbed 11 offensive rebounds and scored eight second-chance points.

The effort allowed Alcorn to head to the locker room with a 32-32 tie and a boost of confidence.

“It was the offensive rebounds that kept the game tied,” Louisiana Tech coach Kurt Budke said. “Give them credit. When they got an offensive rebound, they put it back in.”

As the teams came out for the second half, most of the fans in the gym probably expected La. Tech the team with three national titles, 13 Final Four appearances and dozens of big games on its resum to exert its dominance.

This Tech team, beset by injuries and inexperience, seemed light years from its predecessors.

Alcorn opened the second half with a 12-0 run, taking a 44-32 lead on Vernette Skeete’s steal and layup with 16:42 to play.

“We talked about it at halftime, coming out strong, and then they were the ones that did it,” Budke said.

Tech missed its first seven shots of the half before Margaret DeCiman hit a jumper with 15:20 remaining. The basket started an 8-3 run by the Lady Techsters that got the deficit back under 10 points and kept them in the game.

Louisiana Tech whittled away over the next 10 minutes. They got within two, 53-51, before Shikhia Sims came up with a steal and an assist, followed by a 3-pointer to make it a seven-point game with 6:57 to go.

Tech refused to fold, though, and finished the game on an 11-2 run. The Lady Techsters held Alcorn without a field goal for the final 3:15 and got plenty of help from the Lady Braves along the way.

Tech drew within one on a 3-pointer by Lakiste Barkus and a free throw by Moore, then took the lead on Moore’s layup with 1:25 remaining. Alcorn missed three shots during Tech’s comeback.

One of them came as Alcorn was clinging to a 61-60 lead with less than two minutes to play. The Lady Braves rebounded a missed 3-pointer by Skeete, but she put up a long jumper with 20 seconds left on the shot clock.

“I think we were too anxious, and we rushed our shots,” said Powell, who finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

The Lady Braves had two chances to tie, but Skeete missed the front end of a one-and-one with 36.4 seconds to go and Powell repeated the feat with 6.3 remaining. Alcorn grabbed the rebound off Powell’s miss and called timeout, setting up a dramatic finish.

Powell got the inbounds pass to the right of the goal. As she turned to shoot, Moore was there and deflected the ball. It caromed off the glass and back to Moore, who secured the rebound and the win for Tech.

“(Walker’s) kids outplayed us, she outcoached me and (Alcorn) deserved to win tonight,” Budke said. “It’s a shame for their kids to have to lose, because they really deserved to win.”