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Louisiana Tech touting teamwork

3/17/2004

RUSTON, La. -- Louisiana Tech doesn't go into this season's
NCAA Tournament worrying about last year's.

This version of the Techsters is much different from the team
that allowed top-seeded LSU to overcome a 17-point
second-half deficit on the way to a 69-63 victory in a 2003 West
Region semifinal.

"Last year, we got to where we relied on one player -- Cheryl
Ford,'' said second-year Tech coach Kurt Budke, who leads the
Techsters to the Midwest subregional in Missoula, Mont., this
Saturday.

When fifth-seeded Louisiana Tech (27-2) meets No. 12 Montana
(27-4), it won't be a one-player effort this time, team members
said.

"Each game, it's a team effort now,'' said guard Amber Obaze.
"We've really grown.''

Louisiana Tech has had five different top scorers this season,
on the way to compiling an 11-2 road record. The two losses were to
then-No. 3 and to Rice in overtime.

"This year, we have three or four people who can carry us,''
Budke said. "We don't depend on one person. If somebody gets hurt,
somebody else steps up. It's a very unselfish team.''

Ford, the Western Athletic Conference's player of the year,
graduated and moved into the WNBA ranks, where she picked up a
rookie of the year award on the way to a league championship with
Detroit.

No one could have guessed that losing the team's best player
would actually help Tech in 2003-04. But a newfound sense of
teamwork evolved.

Amisha Carter scored a game-high 19 points on March 4 -- notching
her 14th double-double of the season -- as Tech won a share of the
regular-season Western Athletic Conference crown by beating Rice in
Ruston.

Obaze had a game-high 19 points, her second-best scoring night
of the year, two nights later, as Tech beat Tulsa to clinch the WAC
crown.

With every successive game, more people stepped up.

During the last month, the Techsters outscored their opponents
by 26 points per game, and had the same high scorer just one time.

"I didn't think we could play any better than last year,''
Budke said. "But this team has been even better. We're peaking at
the right time.''

Montana has won 17 games in a row, including last Saturday's Big
Sky Conference championship contest against Idaho State. The Lady
Griz also boast a 22-game wining streak in Dahlberg Arena,
where they regularly play before sold-out crowds.

"The crowd doesn't bother us,'' Frierson said.

Should Louisiana Tech win, the Techsters will remain in front of
the same hostile crowd in Montana to face the winner of the game
between No. 4 seed Texas Tech (24-7) and 13th-seeded Maine (25-6).