Although the start of the two-game series has been pushed back a day due to the weather, Louisiana Tech is set to host Middle Tennessee in a pair of Conference USA women’s basketball contests Saturday and Sunday at the Thomas Assembly Center.
Saturday’s game is set for 2 p.m. and Sunday’s contest is set for 12 p.m. Both games can be heard on the LA Tech Sports Network on 99.3 FM. Saturday’s tilt can be seen on CUSA.tv while Sunday’s finale will be on ESPN+ with Bill Hazen and Katie Hall providing the call of the action.
This weekend will be Senior Recognition Weekend as Techsters Monette Bolden, Amber Dixon and Raizel Guinto will all be honored prior to Sunday’s tipoff.
Middle Tennessee (12-5, 10-2) enters the weekend leading the East Division of Conference USA and boasts the nation’s leading scorer in guard Anastasia Hayes, who is averaging 28.2 points per contest for the Blue Raiders.
“They are good,” said LA Tech head coach Brooke Stoehr. “They have the nation’s leading scorer. Everything goes through her, but they are very balanced. They have very capable scorers at other positions. Their perimeter attack is really solid.
“They have a four and a five that can step out and shoot the three as well. They can spread you out. They play fast and want to score a lot of points. It is going to have to be another solid defensive performance by our team. We have our hands full. We have to control tempo and force them to guard us in order to be successful.”
Hayes scores from just about anywhere on the floor. She has hit 20 three-pointers on the year and leads Conference USA in free throws made (123) and free throws attempted (194).
She is joined in double figures by younger sister Aislynn Hayes (15.5 ppg, 29 three-pointers) as well as Deja Cage (12.8 ppg, 48 three-pointers) and Courtney Whitson (10.6 ppg, 32 three-pointer). Middle Tennessee ranks No. 1 in C-USA in scoring and three-pointers made per game.
On the other hand, LA Tech (13-7, 8-6) ranks No. 2 in scoring defense and field goal percentage defense. The Lady Techsters have held 13 of their 14 C-USA opponents to 63 points or less this season, including six straight.
“Defensively, I think it starts with our focus towards what our defensive principles are and not getting caught up in our opponent, who they are and what their strengths are,” said Stoehr. “It is about who we are. It starts with our interior and works out to our perimeter.
“I think we have done a much better job of keeping people off the free throw line this year and then limiting them to one shot. When we can get all five of them rebounding on the defensive end, it allows us to start our transition. I think it has been about commitment and them buying into what we are asking them to do.”
Middle Tennessee leads the all-time series 7-6, although LA Tech won last year’s meeting 78-60 in Ruston.
Photo: Techsters seniors group — photo by Emerald McIntyre
Seniors Monette Bolden, Amber Dixon and Raizel Guinto