RUSTON, La. – Louisiana Tech hadn’t reached the century mark against a Division I opponent since the 2004-05 season, span of more than 400 games.
On Saturday afternoon with former players from that 2004-05 team sitting in the stands for Legends Day, the Lady Techsters accomplished the feat, racing past Southern Miss 106-85 before 1,723 fans at the Thomas Assembly Center.
Tech was honoring the Kurt Budke, the late coaching legend who led the Lady Techsters to 80 wins from 2002-05 and who – along with former Techster assistant Miranda Serna – tragically passed away in a plane crash on Nov. 17, 2011, when recruiting at Oklahoma State.
With Budke’s wife Shelley and daughter Sara in attendance – along with former players Tasha Crain Williams, Shan Moore Williams, Ty Moore King, Tamika Kursh Williams, Amber Obaze Ford and Erica Smith Taylor – the present day Lady Techsters overcame a slow start and a subpar defensive performance in winning their third straight game.
“It’s really special to have (Shelley and Sara) here and all these players,” said Tech head coach Brooke Stoehr. “The memories that we had with Kurt as an assistant coach when I played here. I told them after the game I thought Kurt would be awfully proud of that offensive performance, but he might throw up at that defense.
“We feel like we can score the basketball. We have felt that way all year. We are getting the ball reversed and moving it and taking care of it.”
Playing against a Southern Miss team that had won four straight and five of its last six and that had held its last six opponents to 57 points or less, senior guard Kierra Anthony scorched the nets for 45 points in the win. The 45 point performance ties for the third most in Techster history.
Anthony, who recorded her sixth performance of 34-plus points this year, hit 19-of-30 field goals and 4-of-5 three-pointers while adding seven steals, six assists and four rebounds.
“I think it gave Kierra some open court space,” said Stoehr. “We were passive early with the ball. Once we got past that it gave her some openings and when she gets into the open court and attacks, really good things happen. I thought we shared the ball really well. Moved the ball well. She missed a couple of easy shots late and she was still 19 of 30.
“It all starts with her on the defensive end of the floor. That’s something we stress with her. I thought she was passive last week even though she scored some. We challenged her and I thought she responded really well on the defensive end. Her energy got us going offensively and got us some easy buckets. It starting loosening them up.”
Tech found itself trailing 14-6 six minutes into the contest. However, an Anthony layup ignited a 16-0 run over six minute span as the Lady Techsters took a 22-14 advantage. Anthony, who owns six of the top 8 single game scoring performances in Conference USA this season, scored 12 points in the second half as Tech took a 46-37 lead into the locker room.
The second half saw more offense by both teams. Amber Dixon (17 points), Bri Harris (13 points) and Raizel Guinto (10 points) all joined Anthony in double figures as the Lady Techsters shot 22-of-35 from the field in the third and fourth quarters. For the game Tech hit 63 percent (40-of-64) from the field, including 13-of-21 from the three-point line.
However, Tech wasn’t able to put Southern Miss away until the final four minutes of the game due to the lack of defensive stops. Southern Miss shot 59 percent (31-of-53) from the field in the loss, led by Shonte Hailes career-high 30 points.
“It’s very frustrating because we work a lot,” said Stoehr. “I mean we spent very little time offensively this week. They are holding people to 57 points a game. They have been really good defensively. I thought we hadn’t spent enough time offensively in practice, and we may struggle to score.
“I was sure wrong about that. We spent a lot of time (in practice) about positioning and communication. It’s the little things. It’s frustrating that we aren’t defending as five and getting stops. We will continue to work and continue to work because that is the one thing that will hold this group back. When we get in a game and need stops.”
Tech will travel to face UTEP Thursday at 8 p.m. at the Don Haskins Center.