RUSTON, La. – Alexus Malone scored 24 points and grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds but it wasn't enough as Missouri State defeated Louisiana Tech 63-59 Thursday night in the first round of the WNIT at the Thomas Assembly Center.
The lone senior played like she didn't want her collegiate career to end, scoring 17 points and grabbing nine rebounds in a second half that saw LA Tech (19-12) recover from a nine-point deficit and take a 56-51 lead with under four minutes to play.
However, with the game on the line, Tech went ice cold offensively, hitting just 1 of its final 10 shots while committing three turnovers down the stretch. For the game, Tech committed 21 turnovers, including in the decisive fourth quarter of action.
"We turned it over 21 times and we hit 6 of 14 free throws," said Tech head coach Brooke Stoehr. "You aren't going to win very often doing those things. It is disappointing. I'm disappointed for our fans. I thought the crowd was great tonight. I thought they were just waiting to explode. They got into it in the fourth quarter when we made the run and I thought they helped us tremendously. We just had too many empty possessions down the stretch.
"I'm disappointed for Alexus Malone. I am disappointed I won't get to coach her anymore. She has come a long way these last two years in so many areas. I'm proud of her. She left everything on the court."
Missouri State (21-11) won despite losing its leading scorer and first team all-conference performer Liza Fruendt to an ankle injury in the first five minutes of the game after coming down on an ankle after a jumper shot. Fruendt sat at the end of the Lady Bears bench the rest of the game.
Meanwhile, her teammates picked up the slack. Brice Calip scored 16 points, Danielle Gitzen added 15 points and Aubrey Buckley scored 11 points to lead the Bears to the win.
Tech led 12-9 after one quarter but scored only six points in the second quarter, hitting just 3-of-12 shots from the field and missing all four of its free throws. Missouri State closed the second quarter with a run to lead 23-18 at the half.
The Lady Bears pushed the advantage to 27-18 early in the third quarter before Malone began to dominate for the Lady Techsters. A Malone layup with 8:47 to play in the game tied the score at 42-42. A Kierra Anthony layup with 6:48 to play gave Tech a 46-45 lead, its first since a 16-15 lead midway through the second quarter.