WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Stiff test awaits in La. Tech opener

J. Michael Moore

It’s not your father’s Louisiana Tech – or is it?

Coming into the 2002-03 season, the Lady Techsters were ranked in the middle of the top 25. Good, but not near the caliber of past teams that used to square off against the Lady Toppers in the Sun Belt Conference.

But this year’s Lady Toppers aren’t following preseason guidelines. They know Louisiana Tech was a good basketball team, returning four starters and a host of transfers and freshmen.

With the stunning 85-76 upset of No. 7 Texas Tech in the season opener, Louisiana Tech busted into the top 10, moving from a No.16 to No.10 national ranking in the most recent AP Top-25 Poll.

Suddenly, it doesn’t appear to be an off-year in Ruston, La.

New head coach Kurt Budke replaced Leon Barmore, the all-time leader in women’s basketball winning percentage. Budke has plenty of weapons to use when the Lady Techsters storm Diddle Arena at 7 p.m. Saturday to open Western’s season.

“I don’t think these preseason rankings tend to let you in on important information,” Lady Topper coach Mary Taylor Cowles said. “I don’t think (Budke) is going to change a whole lot.”

In La Tech’s opener, Cheryl Ford grabbed 14 rebounds and tallied 25 points in 37 minutes against Texas Tech. She was one of four Lady Techsters that scored in double figures.

Louisiana Tech scored 112 points in its last exhibition game against the Basketball Travelers. Cowles says 79 of those came in the paint.

“Every day, we’re trying to continue our game preparation making sure there are no questions left, and fine tune what we have already done on offense and defense,” Cowles said.

She also noted that her squad has to limit transition baskets and take care of the ball offensively.

The Lady Toppers can afford to give the Lady Techsters the outside shot, Cowles said, since they haven’t proven a great shooting ability. The Lady Techsters went 2-for-4 from three-point land against Texas Tech.

“Their whole game is to take it to the basket in penetration,” Cowles said. “They’ve yet to prove what they can do from the three-point line. If the money was on the table, we’d rather them take the three-point shot than give them a shot down low.”

Reach J. Michael Moore at [email protected]