for this game

Louisiana Tech-Florida St. Preview

Mar 19, 2010 - 3:30 PM By JEFF MEZYDLO STATS Senior Writer

Louisiana Tech (23-8) at Florida State (26-5), 2:30 p.m. EDT

The last time Louisiana Tech appeared in the NCAA tournament it lost in the first round to Florida State. After a three-year absence from the event, one of the most storied programs in women's basketball history returns to face a familiar opponent.

The 14th-seeded Lady Techsters will be in for a major challenge against the No. 3 seed and 11th-ranked Seminoles in Saturday's first round in Tallahassee, Fla.

Back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since losing 80-71 to Florida State in 2006, Louisiana Tech (23-8) might be the second-most compelling story in the Dayton Regional behind Connecticut's run toward a second straight undefeated season.

Winners of two national titles, Louisiana Tech reached the NCAA tournament 25 straight seasons before missing out in 2007. However, with former WNBA and Olympic star Teresa Weatherspoon guiding her alma mater, the Lady Techsters return after beating regular-season champion Fresno State 68-66 in the finals of the Western Athletic Conference tournament.

"All I care about is that our name was called because we worked for it to be called," said Weatherspoon, who led the school to its last national title in 1988 and took the Lady Techsters to the WNIT in her first season as coach in 2008-09. "We are now going to prepare ourselves to go in and do great things."

That could be difficult with Florida State (26-5) standing in the way on its home court. The Seminoles, 6-0 in NCAA first-round games under coach Sue Semrau, went 15-1 and averaged 79.2 points in Tallahassee. Their only loss came 78-59 to UConn.

"(Weatherspoon) tells us every game is going to be tough, we just have to be tougher," said forward Shanavia Dowdell, who led Louisiana Tech with 17.6 points and 12.5 rebounds per game.

Though Florida State is the higher seed, facing a team with the history of Louisiana Tech is nothing to look past as far as Semrau is concerned.

"I think it's a great honor to play a program that is as storied as Louisiana Tech," Semrau said. "We're going to have our work cut out for us."

The Seminoles face their initial tournament challenge with star Jacinta Monroe likely to play after she suffered a sprained right ankle in a 67-60 loss to Boston College in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament last week. The senior forward is averaging a team-leading 13.0 points and 7.4 rebounds.

"We really felt like it was most important to give her some time to strengthen it and make sure it was solid before we put her back on the court," Semrau said.

Having Monroe on the court makes the task more difficult for the Lady Techsters, who've lost eight in a row against ranked opponents since beating then-No. 24 Mississippi on Dec. 20, 2005.

Dowdell might be the most talented player on the floor for both teams. The WAC player of the year and one of two seniors on Louisiana Tech had 20 points and 19 rebounds in the conference tournament championship game.

The winner of this game faces sixth-seeded St. John's or No. 11 seed Princeton in the second round Monday.