Lady Raiders Roll Into Elite Eight|
March 30, 2003
By PETE HERRERA
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - New Mexico and The Pit were no match for Texas Tech's quickness, scoring and deep bench.
The second-seeded Lady Raiders, not intimidated by the partisan sellout crowd of 16,182, got 16 points from Plenette Pierson and used an 18-0 run late in the first half to beat the Lobos 71-48 in the semifinals of the Midwest Regional on Saturday night.
Texas Tech (29-5) will meet top-seed Duke (34-1) in Monday's regional championship, with the winner moving on to the Final Four in Atlanta. Duke beat fifth-seed Georgia 66-63 in the other semifinal here.
Tech scored the final 18 points of the first half, holding New Mexico scoreless over the final 7:43. The Lobos missed 11 shots, had four turnovers and several airballs in that span.
"When you're in an environment that is a little hostile, you have to do it with your defense," Texas Tech coach Marsha Sharp said.
The Lady Raiders also had plenty of offense, hitting 30 of 60 shots. Tech became the first opponent in 86 games to shoot 50 percent against New Mexico.
Sixth-seeded New Mexico (24-9) had used its 3-point shooting - and its raucous home fans - to beat Miami and Mississippi State in the first two rounds. But Texas Tech took the crowd out of the game early on.
"It was huge," Sharp said of the 18-0 run. "When you're on the road and you get someone down, the most important thing is you can't let them get back.
"I think we really understood the mentality that we had to keep them down, cause if you let them make shots ... they're a good enough offense they could get back in it in a hurry," Sharp said.
Defensively, the Lady Raiders' man-to-man pressure forced the Lobos into taking tough shots. The Lobos, who hit 13 3s in a 73-61 win over Mississippi State, were 3-for-12 from behind the arc against Texas Tech.
"Our confidence was down. We had to come together as a team and we didn't do it," New Mexico's Chelsea Grear said. "We were missing that spark in our eyes in the beginning of the game."
The Lady Raiders, who had eight different players score in the first half, led 23-19 before their half-ending run.
It started after New Mexico's 6-foot-3 center Jordan Adams went to the bench with her second foul. With the Lobos' leading scorer and all-time shot blocker out, Tech took over. Perkins finished the first-half run with two field goals and a pair of free throws to give the Lady Raiders a 41-19 lead.
New Mexico coach Don Flanagan said Adams' early foul trouble hurt his team at both ends
"You take your best player out when she gets into foul trouble so you can have her at the end of the game," he said. "This time it came back to bite us because we couldn't score."
Adams, who led New Mexico with 20 points, scored 12 of the Lobos' first 15 points in the second half, but it was too late as Tech still got easy shots over the smaller and slower Lobos.
Mandi Moore had 14 points for New Mexico, 11 in the first half.