Despite more injuries, La. Tech gets the win

April 03, 1994|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Sun Staff Writer

RICHMOND, Va. -- Yesterday's Alabama-Louisiana Tech semifinal in the NCAA Women's Final Four looked as much like an episode of "M*A*S*H" as a basketball game, with injured bodies thrown about the Richmond Coliseum floor.

Louisiana Tech, which had more banged-up bodies than Alabama, managed to come out ahead on the scoreboard, 69-66, to earn a spot in this afternoon's championship game.

Afterward, Louisiana Tech coach Leon Barmore shook his head and wondered how he would gather his troops for today's game with North Carolina.

"We try to teach our kids about how to work through being tired and how to work through adversity, and we had some [yesterday]," said Barmore. "We'll play and we'll do the best we can."

By the end of the game, four Techsters were injured. Point guard Pam Thomas had a strained groin muscle, and forwards Amy Brown and Vickie Johnson and reserve guard Kendra Neal had ankle sprains.

But the Crimson Tide's one injury, a laceration to the shooting hand of guard Niesa Johnson, crippled it enough to allow Louisiana Tech (31-3) to escape with its 25th straight win.

As Johnson, a 5-foot-9 junior who was named a Kodak All-America Friday, was leaving the dressing room at the end of halftime, she paused for a drink of water and cut her right hand on the knob of the sink.

The injury required a painkilling shot and seven stitches in the webbing area between her middle and ring finger and caused Johnson to miss the first five minutes of the second half.

Johnson was unable to dribble effectively or shoot and turned the ball over the first time she tried to bring it up.

"It was very difficult for her to come out and play," said Alabama coach Rick Moody. "She's one of the biggest factors that got our basketball team to this point in the first place."

Johnson's injury was especially hurtful, since the Crimson Tide (26-7) had closed a 13-point deficit to six at halftime.

"The knob at the top of the sink was sharp and I hit my hand on it at halftime," said Johnson. "I didn't hit my hand out of frustration but out of excitement for our comeback to end the first half."

Louisiana Tech's Thomas, who lost her starting job shortly after the 99-77 loss to Alabama in December, played brilliantly, scoring a game-high 21 points and making two clutch free throws in the final minute.

"Pam is so good at point guard, and we have her there most of the time," said Barmore. "She is a great penetrator on the wing. When the game is on the line, you saw who had the ball."

In contrast to December's meeting, when Alabama outshot Louisiana Tech, 52 percent to 39, and out-rebounded it 49-37, the Techsters yesterday did a splendid job of taking the transition and inside games away from the Crimson Tide, forcing it to shoot 38 percent from the floor and holding a 45-35 rebound edge.

"They played outstanding defense," said Moody. "We wanted to get a balance with inside and outside. We didn't have a good inside game, so it is surprising that we were able to stay in the game with no inside game."

Said Barmore: "You've got to be totally disciplined to play a team like Alabama."

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