Tennessee Proves Too Deep for Louisiana Tech : Women’s basketball: Undaunted by hostile atmosphere, unbeaten Vols go to their bench to overcome Techsters, 62-56, in battle of top teams.
Louisiana Tech filled its arena with a chanting, foot-stomping, sellout crowd of 8,635 and a band that has adopted the UCLA fight song as its own.
But it wasn’t enough Monday night.
Not against this team.
The nation’s best women’s basketball team, Tennessee (14-0), employed a suffocating man-to-man defense against the nation’s third-ranked team, Louisiana Tech (12-2), and won, 62-56.
It was a courageous performance by a talented team playing in as hostile an environment as can be imagined. Tech students, seated only a few feet from the sideline, taunted and gestured at the Vols throughout the decisive second half, but the victors never wavered.
It was Tennessee’s second in a row over the Techsters in one of women’s basketball’s best rivalries. Louisiana Tech knocked Tennessee out of the NCAA playoffs last March, but Tennessee won earlier this year, 69-62, on a neutral court.
The Vols made a statement with this one. Playing at the finish with three starters out with injuries, Tennessee remained in command against a team that had won 37 of its previous 39 games.
Forward Dana Johnson was sidelined because of a shoulder injury at the nine-minute mark and didn’t return. All-American guard Tiffany Woosley undergoes knee surgery today. And part-time starter Pashen Thompson did not play because of a stress fracture in one toe.
Perhaps Tech Coach Leon Barmore was correct when he said Tennessee’s second unit is a top-10 team.
The Vols even won on a night when their leading scorer, Nikki McCray, was one for 11. For Tennessee, the difference-makers were Michelle Marciniak and Latina Davis.
Marciniak, a 5-foot-9 junior guard, turned it around offensively.
She scored 19 of her 23 points in the second half with drives to the basket and she lit up the Thomas Assembly Center with brilliant floor play.
Davis, a 5-foot-6 junior, was assigned to guard Tech’s Debra Williams, a 45.5% three-point shooter coming in. But thanks in large part to Davis’ in-your-face hounding, Williams was one for 12 from the three-point arc and four for 20 overall.
With 14 minutes left and with Tennessee up by three, Marciniak went to work.
She made a layup driving through the middle, made a five-foot jump shot off a spin move, drove the lane for another layup, made a three-point shot, threw a great pass to Tiffani Johnson underneath for a score and got a layup after a behind-the-back dribble through traffic.
Marciniak’s charge gave the Vols a 45-37 lead and left Tech a little breathless.
“This was our gutsiest performance by far,” said Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt. “Our players played with their heads and their hearts. If you had told me before the season we’d have to go to Ruston and play without Tiffany, Pashen and Dana, I wouldn’t have shown up.”