Fate keeps smiling on Old Dominion This time, Lady Monarchs get help from LSU, 62-49

Mideast Regional

March 23, 1997|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The breaks just seem to keep going the right way for the Old Dominion women's basketball team.

Holding a one-point lead last Sunday near the end of overtime in their second-round game in the NCAA tournament, the Lady Monarchs watched a potential game-winning Purdue shot rim out, sending them on to yesterday's Mideast Regional semifinal here at Purdue's Mackey Arena.

And in the semifinal, No. 2 Old Dominion, the top seed in the region, caught some luck when fourth-seeded Louisiana State couldn't find the basket for long-enough stretches to give the Lady Monarchs a 62-49 win.

Old Dominion (32-1) shot just 33 percent from the floor for the game and got just two points from All-America guard Ticha Penicheiro, but played just enough defense and had just enough luck to win their first NCAA tournament game away from Norfolk in eight tries and move one step closer to the Final Four.

"We have 48 hours to find the best sports psychologist Purdue has to offer," Old Dominion coach Wendy Larry said, jokingly. "Ticha understands that we are fortunate to get through the Purdue game and this game and have a chance [tomorrow] night. We have accomplished one of our goals, but we have to win two games."

The Lady Monarchs, who have won 31 straight, appeared to catch another break yesterday when No. 7 Florida, the region's third seed, upset No. 5 Louisiana Tech, 71-57, yesterday to earn a berth in tomorrow night's regional final.

Old Dominion persevered through a particularly physical game in which bodies flew but so few fouls (31 total) were called that Larry took an indirect swipe at the officiating.

"The game has gotten so aggressive and uptempo and we have to have everyone on the same page," Larry said. "As much as we expect our players to grow and progress, we need everyone associated with the game to do so. We were very fortunate that no one was injured."

Old Dominion, which leads the nation in scoring, averaging 87 points a game, looked sluggish for most of the first half, as its starting front line of power forward Clarisse Machanguana and center Nyree Roberts had trouble finishing.

Roberts, in particular, missed a number of shots from near point-blank range, though she ended with a game-high 21 points, while Machanguana had 16 points.

"It was frustrating. I missed five shots in the first couple of minutes and then coach Larry put me on the bench," said Roberts, a 6-foot-3 junior. "When I got back in, I was more focused. It's really tough to explain."

Things became more clear in the final five minutes of the first half when the Lady Monarchs, trailing 16-14 and having scored only five field goals in the first 14: 36, went on a 16-4 run to close the half, hitting six field goals in that span, with Roberts and forward Mery Andrade contributing five points each in the surge.

The increased offense came from the ODU defense, which forced four turnovers in the final two minutes of the half.

"The last two minutes of the first half was what ODU basketball is all about," reserve guard Amber Eller said. "Our defense is what kicked off that stretch."

Said Roberts: "On defense, we weren't aggressive. When we picked it up defensively, our offense came naturally."

Meanwhile, LSU (25-5), ranked ninth in the nation, played impressively on defense, but had little to show for its effort because of a sporadic offense.

"I thought we played a little tight," LSU coach Sue Gunter said. "The thing that perhaps hurt us the most was just at the end of the first half.

"We let them get away from us, had a couple of turnovers against their press and instead of going in down by six, we go in down by 10. We were never really able to recover from that."

Florida 71, Louisiana Tech 57: The third-seeded Lady Gators (24-8) had never reached the Sweet 16 before, much less the regional final, while the Lady Tech- sters (31-4) have two national championships and tradition.

However, the Florida defense kept Louisiana Tech at bay for the first 7: 15 of the game and went on to lead by as many as 21 points, with the help of 19 from forward Murriel Page and 18 from DeLisha Milton.

"What got us invited was defense and rebounding and what's kept us playing is defense and rebounding. Fundamentally, I think we were very defensively sound," Florida coach Carol Ross said.

"Our players were sick of hearing the coaches talk about how hard Louisiana Tech plays," Ross added. "We respect history and tradition. We just feel it's time for us to become a part of it."

"I surely didn't expect to be beaten like this," Lady Techsters coach Leon Barmore said.

"They kept us off balance with changing defenses throughout the game."

Pub Date: 3/23/97

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