Dogs survive and advance; Techsters tip-off today

Keaston Willis scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Bulldogs to the overtime win. (Photo by Kelsey Chanler)

Courtesy of LA Tech Athletic Communications

Winners of seven of their last eight games, the No. 5 seeded Lady Techsters (19-11) open the 2023 Conference USA Championships today at 11:30 a.m. when they face the No. 4 seeded UTEP Miners inside the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco.

The contest can be heard on 97.7 FM and the LA Tech Athletics app with Kyle Roberts providing a call of the action while it can be seen on ESPN+.

UTEP won both meetings during the regular season.

Tech’s 19 regular season wins matched last year’s total and are the third time Coach Stoehr has reached the 19-win mark. The 12 conference wins also match the most for LA Tech since joining C-USA.

Keiunna Walker and Anna Larr Roberson were named to the 2022-23 All-Conference Teams on Tuesday. Walker picked up the first-team and all-defensive honors, while Roberson earned a second-team mention.

Walker currently ranks No. 8 on the all-time scoring list with 1,940 points. Roberson sits at No. 34 on the all-time list with 1,224 points.

UTEP got off to a 5-0 start to the non-conference portion of their schedule and a 5-1 start to C-USA play, which included the two wins over LA Tech. They then split four of the next eight before winning four of five but dropped the last two games of the regular season to WKU and Middle Tennessee.

UTEP’s offense features a balanced attack with three players in double figures led by North Texas transfer Jazion Jackson adds 12.2 PPG, followed by Oklahoma State transfer N’Yah Boyd (12.7 PPG) and Elina Arike (11.5 PPG).

Jackson earned First-Team All-Conference honors, while Arike was named Defensive Player of the Year and picked up a Second-Team mention.

Baker was also named Co-Coach of the Year for C-USA alongside Rick Insell.

Today’s game will mark the 27th overall meeting between LA Tech and UTEP with the Lady Techsters leading 16-10. UTEP took the C-USA opener this season in Ruston, 62-54 and then defeated the Lady Techsters 72-66 in El Paso.

The series began in 2001-02 with Tech winning in Ruston 90-53, which started a LA Tech nine-game win streak.

This is the third conference tournament matchup, with UTEP winning 81-72 in the 2014 quarterfinals. Tech won 74-47 in the semifinals of the 2004 WAC Tournament.

Bulldogs 81, FIU 76 (Overtime)

After seeing a 20-point second half lead evaporate, the Bulldogs dug deep to pull out an 81-76 overtime win over FIU Wednesday night in the first round of the 2023 Conference USA Championships inside the Ford Center at The Star.

With the win, the Bulldogs advance to face No. 2 seed North Texas tonight at 8 p.m.

Tech built a 36-24 halftime lead and then pushed it out to 45-25 with just over 17 minutes to play in the game. However, the contest was far from over.

After committing just three turnovers in the first half, the Bulldogs struggled against the FIU full-court press over the final 15 minutes of regulation, committing 14 turnovers that led to 18 points by the Panthers.

Tech held a 69-65 lead after Dravon Mangum’s layup with 18 seconds remaining in regulation, but an FIU bucket closed the game to 69-67. On the ensuing inbounds play, Tech committed a turnover leading to two free throws with 6.5 seconds remaining, tying the game at 69-69.

The Bulldogs got one final shot in regulation but Isaiah Crawford’s running floater in the lane was off the mark, sending the game into overtime.

FIU scored first in OT, taking a 71-69 lead — it’s first lead in the game since the Panthers led 7-6 in the opening five minutes of the contest. However, two Crawford free throws followed by seven straight points by Quandre Bullock spurned a 9-0 run as Tech built a 78-71 advantage.

FIU would get no closer than the final margin as the Bulldogs held on for the win.

Keaston Willis led Tech with 23 points followed by Crawford with 22 points. Mangum added 14 points and Bullock 10 points. Willis and Mangum both recorded their first double doubles as Willis pulled down 10 boards and Mangum 11 boards.

Tech outrebounded FIU 48-27.

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