FRISCO, Texas – Alexus Malone scored 27 points and Reauna Cleaver added 15 points but North Texas built a 19-point third quarter lead and held off a furious Louisiana Tech rally as the Mean Green defeated the Lady Techsters 76-69 Thursday afternoon at The Star in Conference USA Tournament quarterfinal action.
Tech (19-11) entered the event as the three seed and winners of three straight games in impression fashion but it was North Texas (16-13) that came out of the gate strong. The Mean Green, who upset No. 6 seed Charlotte on Wednesday, shot over 50 percent from the field in the first half and outrebounded LA Tech by double digits in building a 41-29 halftime lead.
North Texas then scored the first seven points in the third quarter to push its advantage to 48-29 with 7:58 to play in the stanza.
“You have to give North Texas a lot of credit,” said Tech head coach Brooke Stoehr. “I thought their team was fired up to play from the tip. They play with a lot of emotion and a lot of energy. I thought we didn’t defend very well in the first half, and I thought their energy and effort was greater than ours.”
Tech turned up the intensity midway through the third quarter. Alexus Malone scored seven of the Lady Techsters points in a quarter-ending 19-7 run that saw LA Tech cut the deficit to 57-50.
The fourth quarter saw more of the same as Tech cut the deficit to 63-59 on an Anna McLeod three-pointer with 4:51 to play in the game. The deficit was still four at 69-65 after another McLeod three-pointer when the Lady Techsters forced a turnover in the backcourt and appeared to have an uncontested layup that would have cut the lead to one possession with 48 seconds to play.
However, a 10-second backcourt violation was whistled against North Texas, negating Tech’s opportunity for the wide open layup. Tech was unable to score after inbounding the ball on the possession and North Texas hit seven of eight free throws in the final minute to seal the win.
“On defense we were stagnant,” said Malone. “It’s March and you can’t dig yourself in that big of a hole and try to come out.”
Malone led all scorers with 27 points, eight rebounds and six assists while Cleaver added 15 points and McLeod 11 points.
“I’m really proud of our team for fighting back and giving themselves a chance in the second half,” said Stoehr. “Obviously, not the outcome we wanted today, but very proud of what we have accomplished this season.”
North Texas was led by Trena Mims with 19 points and Terriell Bradley with 18 points.
Louisiana Tech will now await a possible WNIT bid on Monday night.