KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Leading up to the Women's Final Four, North Carolina State coach Kay Yow was the toast of the tournament, reaching the main event for the first time in 23 years at the school.
Come game time, however, her team was just plain toast, absorbing an 84-65 defeat at the hands of Louisiana Tech last night at Kemper Arena.
Led by four players in double figures, the Lady Techsters (31-3), were too quick, too fast, and too aggressive for the Wolfpack (25-7). They advance to tomorrow's championship game against Tennessee, which routed ninth-seeded Arkansas, 86-58, in last night's other semifinal.
Take away Chasity Melvin's NCAA semifinal record-setting 37 points, and the positives are hard to come by for N.C. State, which took its worst beating of the season.
"We just got outplayed," Yow said. "It was not our night."
Very quickly, N.C. State found itself out of sync, throwing the ball away on its first possession and letting the shot clock expire on its second. Despite the early jitters, N.C. State led 10-6 after a pair of free throws by Melvin with 14: 07 left in the first half.
From this point on, Tech began rolling while N.C. State sputtered. Amanda Wilson scored six of her team-high 20 points during a 14-0 run that gave Tech a 20-10 lead with 9: 22 left in the half.
Both coaches identified Tech's transition play and rebounding as key elements during this stretch. Wilson (11 rebounds) and Monica Maxwell (12) led the board brigade for the Techsters.
And N.C. State's guards couldn't handle LaQuan Stallworth and Tamicha Jackson, who had 18 and 16 points, respectively.
"I must say they are the quickest tandem I've played," said N.C. State's Tynesha Lewis. "They got out in the transition real quick, and that's where they beat us."
N.C. State made a brief comeback, closing to 28-22 after a drive by LySchale Jones with 5: 38 left in the half.
Leading 41-32 at the intermission, Tech dispensed with any possible drama by scoring 12 straight points after Lewis' opening basket for the Wolfpack. Just four minutes into the second half it was 53-34.
The Wolfpack got no closer than 16 points (55-39) from that point. Part of what ailed it was the inability to get anyone aside from Melvin to participate on offense, and to rebound, getting beat 41-35 on the boards.
Not only did Melvin score most of the team's points, she took nearly half its shots. Lewis, Jones and Summer Erb were ineffective. Lewis and Jones -- averaging in double figures -- scored seven apiece. Erb, hitting in double figures for most of the tournament but out of her element in the Lady Techsters' transition game, scored two points in seven minutes of action.
"I think when you rely on one player, as they did so much, it doesn't allow the others to score, and that was fine with us," Tech coach Leon Barmore said. "I think that Melvin is a great player. But we thought Lewis would hurt us a little more. We thought Erb would."
Without Melvin, the Wolfpack shot 12-for-34 from the floor. Lewis had a tough night, hitting three of nine shots, a fact she took in stride.
"I must say, I've had better nights," Lewis said with a little grin. "But it's like life, you have your ups and your downs."
Yow also was philosophical, proud of what her third-place Atlantic Coast Conference team did to get here.
"At the moment, it probably does [take away]," Yow said of the loss' impact on the season. "But I'm sure when I have time to reflect and come back, nothing can take away [from the experience.]"
Women's Final 4
# At Kansas City, Mo.
Last night's games
Louisiana Tech 84, North Carolina State 65
) Tennessee 86, Arkansas 58
L Louisiana Tech (31-3) vs. Tennessee (38-0), 8: 30 p.m., ESPN
Pub Date: 3/28/98