RENO - It was almost over before it started.
Using a solid perimeter game and sensational defense, Louisiana Tech roared to a 21-point lead midway through the first half, and held off Boise State for an 81-68 victory in the quarterfinals of the WAC Tournament Wednesday afternoon at Lawlor Events Center.
Louisiana Tech (19-8) moves into Friday's semifinal against Fresno State (20-9), a 71-53 winner over SMU (19-10). Boise State ends the season 10-19.
"I thought the start of the game was the key," Louisiana Tech coach Kurt Budke said. "We were able to get a decent margin and that helped us hold off their run. I was proud of our team for coming out ready to play. I think we are peaking at the right time.
"Our defense was a key. Our defensive transition was very good. We switched on ball screens well and stayed between our man and the basket. We can always get better defensively, but I was pleased."
The Lady Techsters went on a 25-6 run over a 10-minute span of the first half, as Lakiste Barkus (20 points), Erica Taylor (21 points) and Aarica Ray-Boyd (9 points) provided the spark. The WAC co-champs converted BSU mistakes into 13 points during that span.
Taylor had two layups and Barkus a three-pointer in an 11-0 run. In a 14-6 run, Ray-Boyd bombed in two of her three-pointers and Ty Moore added two layups. The Lady Techsters ended the half with a 47-30 lead.
Barkus hit all six of her first-half field-goal attempts, four coming from beyond the arc, en route to 16 points in the first 20 minutes. Taylor had 11 of her 20 in the first half. Louisiana Tech needed those two to step up because WAC Player of the Year Tasha Crain was limited to six first-half minutes because of foul problems.
"Once our shots started falling, it encouraged me to shoot the ball," Barkus said.
Budke said the foul problems of Crain, Tamika Kursh and 6-7 Margaret DeCiman forced him to back off his pressure defense a bit. Still, the Lady Techsters caused BSU plenty of problems.
"The first 12 minutes of the game were tough," BSU coach Jen Warden said. "It's not the speed of the game that gets you, it's the physical-ness. Once we adjusted, we played better."
Behind a season-best 18 points by Nadia Begay, who had scored only 40 points all year prior to the tournament, the Broncos kept plugging away and finally cut the lead to nine two different times late in the game.
"This game was like our season," Warden said. "We battled back all year long. We lost a couple of games on the road and then came back to beat Louisiana Tech. The kids never quit, and that was evident today."