FRESNO – Brietta Thomas hit a three-pointer with 2.6 seconds to play in the third overtime to lift Louisiana Tech (11-5, 3-0 WAC) to a 94-92 win over Fresno State (11-6, 2-1 WAC) before 3,275 fans at the Save Mart Center Thursday night.
It was the first triple overtime game in Louisiana Tech history and the second straight overtime game for the Lady Techsters, who defeated Hawaii 74-69 last Saturday night.
With Tech trailing 92-91 in the third overtime period, the Lady Techsters called with 18 seconds to play to draw up a play. Following the timeout, Jasmine Bendolph missed on a jumper but Shantale Bramble-Donaldson pulled down the offensive rebound.
After Bramble-Donaldson was stripped of the ball, Kiara Young batted the loose basketball out to Thomas who rose up and drilled the 20-footer from the left wing with 2.6 seconds to play. Fresno State, out of timeouts, inbounded the ball but Taylor Thompson's desperation halfcourt shot was wide left as LA Tech snapped the Bulldogs 20-game regular season Western Athletic Conference winning streak.
"I'm so proud of this team," said Tech head coach Teresa Weatherspoon, who saw her team play all three of the overtime periods without All-American candidate Adrienne Johnson who fouled out of the game with 14 seconds to play in regulation.
"We could have easily folded our tents at the end of regulation but every one of our kids showed a lot of heart. This is a big win for us. This is not an easy place to win. Fresno State is a very talented team and is very well coached. I hope we grew up some tonight."
Despite trailing by as many as 13 points on three separate occasions in the second half, Louisiana Tech was on the verge of winning in regulation. Bendolph sank two free throws with 38 seconds remaining to give LA Tech a 74-71 advantage.
However, the Lady Techsters kept giving the Bulldogs extra opportunities. On three separate occasions in the final 25 seconds of regulation, Fresno State missed on a shot and LA Tech pulled down the defensive rebound. However, on each occasion LA Tech had the ball taken away – the final time proving costly.
After a turnover by Tech guard Whitney Jones with 14 seconds to play, Fresno State's Jaleesa Ross misfired on a long three pointer with six seconds to play and the loose basketball was batted out to Thompson who drained a 25-footer with less than a second to play to send the game into overtime.
"We didn't do a very good job down the stretch (of regulation) of taking care of the basketball; of being strong with the basketball," Weatherspoon said. "I hope that we learn from this game how important it is to do all the little things.
"There aren't too many times that you look at a stat sheet where you turn the ball over 35 times and shoot as poorly as we did from the free throw line and still win. We have to improve in all of those areas. However, I'm still so proud of these kids."
In the first overtime, Tech never led but Bendolph hit a jumper with 1:12 to play to tie the game at 80-80. Both teams had opportunities to take the lead in the final 72 seconds but neither was able to as Hayley Munro's desperation three-pointer at the buzzer was nowhere close.
The second overtime saw both teams take two-point advantages. With Fresno State leading 85-84, Bendolph hit a three-pointer with 1:58 to play to give the Lady Techsters an 87-85 advantage. However, Tech turned the ball over three times and Munro's layup with 22 seconds to play tied the game at 87-87.
Tech had a chance to win it but Tarkeisha Wysinger-Mackey, who played a program single-game record 51 minutes, lost the basketball out of bounds under the Lady Techster basket with seconds to play, sending the game into a third overtime period.
In the final overtime, Tech took a 91-88 advantage on a Bendolph layup with 2:03 to play. However, Fresno State fought back to take a 92-91 lead on Marnique Arnold's layup with 45 seconds remaining.
After Young missed a driving layup with 28 seconds to play, Murno went to the free throw line with a chance to build on the Bulldogs advantage. However, she missed both and Tech pulled down the defensive rebound, setting up the dramatic finish and Thomas' game-winning three.
"I am not surprised at all the Bri hit the shot," Weatherspoon said. "I knew the minute it left her hand that it was good. She shot it with confidence. She didn't hesitate. She can really help us and we need her to continue to work hard and play with confidence."
Johnson led Tech with 23 points and nine rebounds while Young added a career-high 17 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. Wysinger-Mackey, who left the game in the final 55 seconds of the third overtime due to severe cramps, finished with 14 points, a career-high 15 rebounds and six steals.
Jones and Bendolph each scored 13 points as five Techsters scored in double figures.
Tech shot 44 percent (38-87) from the field, 6-of-16 from the three-point line and 12-of-23 from the free throw line. Fresno State shot 40 percent (30-76) for the game and hit 11-of-30 three-pointers and 21-of-35 free throws.
The Lady Techsters outrebounded Fresno State 62-49, including 25 offensive rebounds.
Tech returns to action Jan. 20 when it hosts Utah State at 7 p.m. at the Thomas Assembly Center.
(Courtesy: Louisiana Tech Athletics Department)