TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ This latest conference title didn't come easily for No. 8 Louisiana Tech.
The Lady Techsters, after getting a test from Tulsa in the semifinals, had to rally in the second half Saturday to beat Hawaii 53-50 in the championship game of the Western Athletic Conference tournament.
Amber Obaze scored 16 points, including two big baskets in the closing minutes, as Tech (25-4) earned the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament by winning its 20th straight conference tournament game, dating to 1996.
``You have to give credit to Hawaii,'' Louisiana Tech coach Leon Barmore said. ``They had the motivation that if they win, they're in the NCAA tournament. We didn't have that motivation. We wanted to be champs, but we knew we were in NCAA tournament.''
Hawaii (23-7) lost by wide margins in the two regular-season meetings with the Lady Techsters, but made them sweat this time. Coach Vince Goo thinks his team has earned an at-large berth.
Five of the Wahine's losses have come against top 10 teams _ Stanford, Baylor and Tech. The other two were to Rice, a team they beat 59-36 in the tournament semifinals Friday.
``Not a bad record, seven losses against those people,'' Goo said. ``I've heard people say if it's a blowout today, we don't go. I don't think that was a blowout, was it? It shows we can play some D and play with some good people.''
Hawaii fell behind 12-2 at the 12:47 mark before going on a 22-5 run during the next 8 1/2 minutes, with Kim Willoughby scoring 10 of her 12 points.
The Wahine twice led by seven in the first half and pushed the lead to 32-23 early in the second. Tournament MVP Ayana Walker scored seven straight to keep Tech close, but it was still a 41-34 Hawaii lead with just under 12 minutes to play.
Then Tech scored 11 straight points to surge ahead. Obaze had two of the baskets, and Walker and Cheryl Ford one each.
Christen Roper, who scored 12 points, banked in a jumper, and Chelsea Wagner hit a long 3-pointer in a 7-0 run that gave Hawaii a 48-45 lead. After a free throw by Ford, Walker scored inside to tie it at 50 with 3:24 left.
Obaze made a driving shot at the 2:36 mark to give Tech a 50-48 lead. After Roper tied it with 1:14 remaining, Obaze gave Tech the lead for good with a baseline jumper with 47 seconds left.
A free throw by Brooke Lassiter made it a three-point lead, and Hawaii missed two 3-point tries in the final 15 seconds.
Ford had 15 points and 13 rebounds, and Walker added 14 points and nine boards. Willoughby's 12 rebounds helped Hawaii outrebound the bigger Lady Techsters 42-33.