SCHEDULE: No. 21 La Tech to test Lady Toppers out of gate

Michael Casagrande

The Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters’ 768 total wins and three NCAA titles are typically enough to intimidate their opponents.

But while most schools get caught up in the lore of Tech’s tradition, Western has a little history of its own – national runner-up in 1992 – and will not be swept away in the hype when the Lady Techsters invade Diddle Arena Nov. 23 for the season-opener.

While the two programs have been headed in different directions in recent years, Western is on the mend. And first-year head coach Mary Taylor Cowles said her team doesn’t have an underdog’s mentality. She doesn’t find it absurd to think her Lady Toppers will defend their home court and start the year with a win.

“You never know,” Cowles said. “That’s why it’s called a game. There is a chance out there, and we have prepared for Louisiana Tech just like any other team. We are going into that game with the attitude that we are going to win.”

Despite the fact that legendary coach Leon Barmore has traded in his whistle for sunglasses, the Lady Techsters expect to carry on their winning ways. Tech was the preseason pick to win the Mountain West Conference and senior center Cheryl Ford was selected preseason Player of the Year.

They have that to go with the tradition. And they have momentum in the long-running series between the schools, which both played in the Sun Belt Conference until last year.

Last season, the Lady Toppers made the trip to the bayou only to be beaten thoroughly by the then-No. 11 Lady Techsters, 78-47. Tech pounded Western on the boards, finishing with a 56-34 rebounding advantage.

Cowles looks to keeping the Lady Techsters off the offensive glass as a key to the game this year.

“Typically, Louisiana Tech has not been a great outside shooting team,” the former Western standout said. “If you allow a team like Louisiana Tech to get two and three and four offensive rebounds, their shooting percentage goes real high. So we have to make it a priority to box out.”

The USA Today/ESPN preseason poll tabbed the Lady Techsters as the 19th team in the nation, but Western senior guard Kristina Covington will not be starstruck when Tech comes calling.

“I think for our team, we are not intimidated,” Covington said. “We are most definitely excited about playing Louisiana Tech in our first game with Mary being here as coach and playing in Diddle for the first time. We’re going to go out there and give it our all.”

With a lot of attention placed on the Tech game, Covington is quick to point out that the showdown will no longer affect the Sun Belt race. In the past, the Lady Toppers had battled the Lady Techsters for conference supremacy before Tech moved to the Mountain West after the 2000-2001 season.

“We are not going to set our season on if we beat Louisiana Tech or if we lose, but we are most definitely going to go out there and give it our all,” Covington said.

Fellow senior Tiffiany Diggins agreed.

“If we go out and do what our coaches ask us to do and play as a team we can beat anyone,” she said.