In 1979 Louisiana Tech and Old Dominion set the stage for one of the first great rivalries in women's college basketball.
They met in the national championship game of the AIAW — the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, founded in 1971.
The Lady Techsters had a 32-27 halftime lead but ODU rallied in the second half to win, 75-65. The game featured all-time greats Pam Kelly of Louisiana Tech and ODU's Nancy Lieberman.
In the semifinals, Kelly scored 23 points as the Lady Techsters beat Tennessee and an up-and-coming fifth-year coach, Pat Summitt (then known by her maiden name, Pat Head).
The fourth-ranked Lady Techsters upended No. 1 ODU at Madison Square Garden the following season, but ODU avenged the loss in the 1980 AIAW semifinals.
On Jan. 29 1982, ODU snapped Louisiana Tech's record 54-game winning streak — which included the 1981 AIAW championship — in Norfolk, Va.
But in the sports moment judged the greatest in school history, Louisiana Tech won the first NCAA Tournament two months later on Old Dominion's home court. The Lady Techsters scored more than 100 points in 11 games that season. In five NCAA Tournament victories they boasted a 31-point average margin of victory.
They took down Tennessee 69-46 to reach the final on March 28, 1982 in front of 9,531 people at Norfolk Scope Arena. They witnessed Louisiana Tech dismantle Cheyney State, coached by C. Vivian Stringer, 76-62.
The Lady Techsters shot 56% from the floor. Janice Lawrence, the Final Four Most Outstanding Player, led the way with 20 points. Kelly and Debra Rodman both registered a double-double. Kim Mulkey handed out seven assists.
"Before the tournament, I didn't think we could be considered the greatest team ever unless we won the championship again," associate head coach Leon Barmore told the Ruston (La.) Daily Leader. "There's two banners hanging in Old Dominion Fieldhouse; there are three championship dates on a sign before you get to Delta State. Now, we can talk about being a great team along with those people."
Today, Louisiana Tech and Old Dominion are rivals in Conference USA. Barmore and head coach Sonja Hogg are in the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. It was Hogg's idea to call the team Lady Techsters when she started the program in 1974. She considered Bulldogs unfeminine and Lady Bulldogs inappropriate.
Barmore took over as head coach in 1985 and in 20 years lost only 87 games. In 1988 he led Louisiana Tech to a 32-2 record and a third national championship. Overall, the Lady Techsters have reached 13 Final Fours, 23 Sweet 16s and 27 NCAA Tournaments.
Their three titles are tied in school history with the football team's NCAA Division II championships in 1972-74. Their legacy includes Mulkey, now the head coach at Baylor. She is the first person in NCAA history to win a basketball national championship as a player, assistant coach and head coach.
“There was no way to expect the outpouring of devotion when it all started back in 1974,” Hogg said. “Of course, we couldn’t really envision the scope and magnitude of what might be accomplished by this program, either.”
• LA Tech Hall of Fame
On the cover and middle: Louisiana Tech's 1982 NCAA champions. (Courtesy Louisiana Tech University Archives)
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