Taming The Lions

The Lady Raiders made a statement on Saturday against No.15 Penn State with a big win.

Texas Tech (7-0) made nine three pointers in their battle with Lady Lions of Penn State (6-2) this afternoon, but the crowd at the United Spirit Arena is only going to remember one.


The Lady Raiders led No. 16 Penn State 67-66 with four seconds left in the game and had one second left on the shot clock.


Jordan Barncastle stepped up to the challenge as she got the shot off as the buzzer sounded to ice the game for the No. 19 Lady Raiders.


The entire game was highly contested and no one ever had a strangle hold on the game.


Neither team could seem to get an advantage on the other as the Lady Raiders slowed the high powered back court of Penn State holding Maggie Lucas and Zhaque Gray to a combined eight first half points.


But it is no easy task to slow the entire Lady Lions offense as the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year Alex Bentley led the way scoring 13 points and led the team to three easy baskets in transition early on in the half, opening up a 36-34 first half lead.


The Lady Raiders struggled in the half to capitalize on their opportunities shooting only 10-33 from the floor. 


But once again, Tech won the rebounding battle while collecting 13 offensive rebounds in the half, led by Senior Kierra Mallard on the way to her third double-double on the season collecting nine first half rebounds, six coming on the offensive end.


She finished the night with 18 points and 15 rebounds along with three steals.


"They just told us from the jump to go inside and be aggressive with them, don't ease up," Mallard said. "So me and (Shauntal Nobles) and all the rest of the posts just got the ball and went in every time hard."


Tech leads the Big 12 in rebounding margin out rebounding their opponents by just over 18 a game.


Had it not been for the success of the Lady Raiders on the boards, the first half may have had a much different result because of how Tech struggled to score against the zone defense of the Lady Lions.


However, Casey Morris would not allow that to happen hitting three 3 pointers of her own in the first half on the way to 10 first half points.


Head Coach Kristy Curry said the team just had to be positive and patient to break the zone of the Lady Lions.


""We thought we were getting really good looks," she said. "They packed it in on us and I know everybody in the stands was wondering why we kept shooting the outside shot, but that was really all they were giving us."


Tech came out in the second half firing, scoring the first seven points and opening up a 41-36 lead. But Penn State came right back with a 6-0 run of their own to bring the score to 42-41.


That was the theme of the second half as the lead changed hands five times early in the half. 


The Lady Lions just kept scoring inside with eight points in the paint in the first five minutes of the second half, and the Lady Raiders were solid on the boards winning the rebound battle 25-19 in the second half.


But where the Lady Raiders struggled from the field, the Lady Lions struggled from the three point line for the entire game going 2-9 on the night.


"We were just doing everything we could do to make them uncomfortable," Curry said, "And force them out of their comfort zone, you just have to hope they miss, they're that good."


Then Tech's depth began to show. The game was neck and neck until the latter portion of the second half, but then Tech began to open it up.


The Lady Raiders went on an 11-2 run opening up a 64-57 lead with 3:21 left in the game.


"We rested Kierra and really gambled there a couple of times," Curry said, "But I really think that it paid off down the stretch."


But the Lady Lions were not to be outdone going on a 6-0 run of their own to bring it within one to 64-63 with Maggie Lucas hitting their first three pointer of the game with just under 1:45 to go.


But the star of this game was Kierra Mallard and she was not going to go quietly, answering immediately on the other end with a three pointer of her own.


And all of a sudden, three pointers were falling from the sky, Alex Bentley hit one a short time later, to cut the lead to one again.


And after inbounds play after inbounds play and Tech's feeble attempts to get a shot off, the Lady Raiders had the ball with under five seconds and one second on the shot clock.


They had one chance to inbound the ball  and get a shot off or the Lady Lions would have the ball and four seconds on the clock, and they had been on fire for the last few minutes of the game.


Enter Jordan Barcastle. The Texas Tech fan favorite who just seems to be in the right place at the right time.


Penn State Head Coach Coquese Washington said they knew who Tech was going to try to get the ball to Barncastle and they had to defend against her.


They failed to do that. 


Monique Smalls got hurt on Wednesday, but she said there was nothing that was going to keep her off the court for today's game.


She inbounded the ball to an open Barncastle and watched her take the shot. Time seemed to stand still as Lubbock crowd held their breath as the ball soared through the air.


Then the crowd exploded as the ball fell through the net to seal the deal for the Lady Raiders.


Barncastle only took three shots on the game, making two three pointers, but none was bigger than the last one.


"There was one second on the shot clock, just get the ball and shoot it," she said. "What else are you going to do with it? You're not going to pass up the shot with one second left."


The Lady Lions had been on an offensive run that Texas Tech's men's team would be jealous of, scoring a combined 206 points over their last two games including a rout of number 13 North Carolina.


Monique Smalls said on Friday that Tech would have to hold Penn State to 50 or 60 points if they hoped to win the game.


They succeeded.


Coach Curry said this is one of the better teams they will face all year and it was a good measuring stick for the Lady Raiders before they head into Big 12 play.


"I wish Penn State well, I know they're going to have a great year," she said. "I'm really proud of our team and how hard they competed, we were just able to make a few more plays down the stretch."

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