Louisiana Tech put the brakes on Alabama and put itself on the verge of another national championship.

Shutting down Alabama's running game with stifling man-to-man defense, Louisiana Tech avenged a 22-point loss to the Crimson Tide in December with a 69-66 victory Saturday and moved into the NCAA women's title game for the fifth time.Pam Thomas sparked a fast start that sent Tech into an early 13-point lead, then hit three key baskets and a free throw in the second half to help the Lady Techsters blunt an Alabama comeback and win for the 25th straight time.

Alabama ran and shot at will in beating Tech 99-77 back on Dec. 11. But the Lady Techsters refused to let that happen Saturday and held the Crimson Tide 20 points below their season scoring by stopping Yolanda Watkins inside and making guards Niesa Johnson and Betsy Harris work hard for their shots.

"We had to be totally disciplined on defense," Tech coach Leon Barmore said. "We didn't want to help out Harris and Johnson. We did a couple of times and they hit the 3-pointer. But for the most part, we were a very disciplined basketball team defensively."

Louisiana Tech (31-3) will meet North Carolina for the championship on Sunday. The Tar Heels defeated Purdue 89-74 in Saturday's second game. Tech won NCAA titles in 1982 and 1988 and finished second in 1983 and 1987.

Alabama (26-7) tied a semifinal record by making six 3-pointers but couldn't make the baskets it needed at the end.

The Crimson Tide had a golden opportunity when they had the ball in the closing seconds trailing 68-66. But Harris stepped on the right sideline with 18.8 seconds left and Thomas made a free throw with 14.2 seconds to play. That meant Alabama's final shot had to be a 3-pointer and Johnson missed under heavy pressure from well beyond the arc.

"Considering the guts our kids showed out there, I have to be elated with our performance, even though it wasn't one of our better games," Alabama coach Rick Moody said. "We wanted to run the ball, but their pressure was very intense. They did a good job taking our running game away."

They also took away Watkins, Alabama's leading scorer with a 15.2 average. Tech's Racquel Spurlock and LaShawn Brown were in her face from start to finish and held her to nine points on 4-for-18 shooting. She did not score in the second half.

Spurlock also grabbed 18 rebounds to tie a semifinal record.

"I wasn't much of a shooting threat because it wasn't there, so I just had to get big and stand tall," said Spurlock, who scored 10 points.

Thomas scored 11 points in the first 61/2 minutes and finished with 21 to lead Tech. Vickie Johnson added 16 and Debra Williams had 12.

Harris led Alabama with 21 points, 13 in the second half, and tied the semifinal record with four 3-pointers. Stanford's Molly Goodenbour made four in 1992. Johnson added 14 and Madonna Thompson scored 12.

Alabama missed 10 of its first 12 shots and hit just 37.7 percent for the game. The Crimson Tide didn't get many second chances, either, coming up with only two offensive rebounds in the first half and five for the game.

"We're not going to hit all of our shots," Moody said. "We need to get some second shot opportunities, but Spurlock and the rest of them did a good job keeping us off the glass."