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May 25, 2006

Techsters to play ULM

For several years now, scheduling conversations between Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana Tech have failed to pay dividends in the major sports programs.

Finally next season, there has been a breakthrough in women's basketball. The Lady Techsters have agreed to play in the ULM women's basketball tournament in December, setting up a possible game between the neighboring schools for the first time since 1998-99. "It will be a lot of fun," ULM coach Mona Martin said. "Hopefully, we'll get more of our teams (at ULM and Tech) doing it. The bottom line for us is, we get a chance to play a Top 25 team and compete in front of the home fans."

ULM is still searching for a fourth school to join Tech and Alcorn State in the tournament, which is scheduled for Dec. 8-9 at Fant-Ewing Coliseum and sponsored by Taco Bell. Lamar was originally part of the field, but had to pull out. Kent State is a possible fourth team.

"We're looking forward to it," Techster coach Chris Long said. "ULM had a good year this past season. It will be good competition. We're looking forward to playing in their tournament."

ULM and Tech would both have to win their first-round games to play in the tournament championship.

"Coach Martin and I had talked about doing a tournament that would be good for her and the program," ULM athletics director Bobby Staub said. "It happened to work out. We want to have a tournament every year and it worked out for Tech."

As part of the deal, ULM has agreed to make a return trip to Ruston to play Tech in the 2007-08 season.

"The biggest thing for me and our program is, we play a lot of games in our conference far off," Long said "It's always good to get to play one closer. Obviously they fit the bill."

Tech leads ULM 44-7 in a series that started in 1974-75. The Techsters have claimed seven consecutive wins against ULM, including a 94-48 decision in Monroe in 1998-99.

Tech assistant Brooke Stoehr, who played in the last meeting with ULM as a sophomore guard, said the game is good for women's basketball in this area.

"I think it's a great game for this region because of the close proximity of the schools," said Stoehr, who was known as Brooke Lassiter during her Techster playing days. "It's a great way to get more fans in the region involved in women's basketball."

The series enjoyed its golden era in the 1980s, when both ULM and Tech were national powers.

"I'm very excited about it," said ULM assistant Eun Jung Ok, who led the team to the 1985 Final Four as a player. "It's going to draw a lot of people. Whenever we played Louisiana Tech, I was always ready to play."

Four of the top five crowds to ever attend a ULM women's game at Fant-Ewing Coliseum — including a record 8,155 on Feb. 11, 1985 — were products of the rivalry.

The two biggest women's basketball crowds at Thomas Assembly Center were also recorded for a meeting between Tech and ULM — 8,975 on Jan. 22, 1985 and 8,825 on Jan. 13,1984.

"You think back to the early '80s when E.J. was playing and (Tech guard) Kim Mulkey was playing," Stoehr said. "Those are big-time players who are part of the history of the game."

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