Best in the Belt
Walker leads La. Tech to sixith straight Sun Belt title
MOBILE, Ala. (AP) -- Louisiana Tech proved what most teams in the Sun Belt Conference already knew.
Ayana Walker had 17 points and 10 rebounds as the No. 6 Lady Techsters beat Denver 67-55 Tuesday to capture their sixth straight Sun Belt Conference tournament title.
"We are the best team in the league, and it would have been a shame not to win this game," Louisiana Tech coach Leon Barmore said. "We have proved that over the course of the year. Winning the tournament was special."
The Lady Techsters (25-4) won their 16th straight game and secured an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
Denver (24-6), playing without one of its top players, can only hope its best season is enough to secure its first NCAA Tournament bid as an at-large team.
The Pioneers led by four points early in the second half and trailed by six in the final minute, despite missing starter Michaela Pavlickova, who was sidelined with muscle spasms.
"It didn't matter that Misha was sitting on our bench in street clothes," Denver coach Pam Tanner said. "They came ready to play and ready to win this basketball tournament. I think that proved to everybody here and hopefully the NCAA selection committee that we are a team that should be in the 64.
"We played our hearts out."
The Pioneers made a believer out of Barmore, whose team secured its 20th straight NCAA Tournament berth.
"Denver deserves to be in," he said. "I know Denver is good, and they deserve to be in the tournament."
Louisiana Tech shot 7-for-28 and trailed 27-25 at halftime. The Lady Techsters rebounded in the second half, shooting 56.3 percent.
A little "constructive criticism" from Barmore at halftime helped spark the turnaround.
"He just came in and asked if we were going to sit there and let them bump us around or go out there and play Tech basketball," said Walker, the tournament's most outstanding player. "If you can take constructive criticism, then it shouldn't bother you."
Reserve Nikki Weddle scored 21 points and shot 5-for-11 from 3-point range for Denver.
"I think they just increased the intensity," Weddle said. "They are No. 6, and we are basically nobodies. But after today, there are people out there that are saying we are somebody."
Ashley Atkinson's 3-pointer with 14:30 left gave Denver a 35-31 lead, but the Lady Techsters responded with a 16-6 run and took the lead for good.
Louisiana Tech scored the game's final six points.
Brooke Lassiter had 14 points and six assists for the Lady Techsters. Takeisha Lewis added 12 points and 12 rebounds as the Lady Techsters outrebounded Denver 44-35.
Kellie Carwell had 13 points and Atkinson 11 for Denver.