In The Zone

Lady Raiders fought and were able to continue the unbeaten streak behind a strong performance from senior Kierra Mallard.

The Lady Raiders are off to their best start in the Kristy Curry era as they entered Big 12 Conference play undefeated for the first time since the 2003-04 season.

Wednesday night saw the start of conference play against an emotionally charged Oklahoma State team who boasted an 8-1 record coming into the game in the United Spirit Arena.

But the Lady Raiders (13-0, 1-0 in Big 12 play) proved to be too talented for the Cowgirls (8-2, 0-1) to overcome as Tech took the game in Lubbock 58-53.

Kierra Mallard led the way for Tech recording her fifth double-double of the season with 19 points while adding 11 rebounds.

She also added five blocks and four steals. The Dallas native is now four blocks away from passing Crystal Boles' block record of 191.

"If I'm there, I'm going to try and block it," Mallard said, "But lately, I've been trying not to block so much so I won't get in foul trouble, but it's hard to stop blocking."

The first half started off in typical Lady Raider fashion as Tech jumped out to an early 16-8 lead behind two Jordan Barncastle 3-pointers.

But the game slowed down midway through the half as the Cowgirls switched to zone defense.

The Lady Raiders struggled to match up with the size of OSU and went four minutes failing to record a field goal.

Tech head coach Kristy Curry said the team went away from what made them so successful early in the season.

 "We were a little bit tight, passive, hesitant, all the same definition in the dictionary to me tonight," she said. "We finally got them to settle down and play to our strengths."

When the Cowgirls went back to man-to-man defense, Tech got back on track matching OSU point for point as the half ended with the Lady Raiders leading 26-21.

But in the second half, OSU went back to their zone causing fits for the Lady Raiders taking their first lead of the game with 11:45 left in the game.

Tech's offense just could not get on track in the second half as some uncharacteristic problems with ball security haunted them for much of the rest of the game.

The Lady Raiders went through another scoring drought in the half going through a six minute stretch with only scoring two points.

The crowd was getting restless as the half went on until Tech went on a 5-1 run to tie the game up at 39 when junior Mary Bokenkamp drilled one of her two three pointers with eight minutes left.

All of that was part of an 11-3 run putting the Lady Raiders up 45-41 with the roof set to blow right off due to the crowd.

But the Cowgirls came right back with a 5-0 run of their own with a three by Taylor Schippers and a fast break basket instigated by one of Tiffany Bias' five steals on the night.

In the waning moments, neither team could get a strangle hold on the game. When one player made a basket, another would make one on the other side.

Jim Littell took over the head coaching job after the early season tragedy and was pleased with what his team did Wednesday.

"I was proud of our players and the way they played, especially in the second half," he said. "I thought they came back and competed against a very good basketball team."

But with less than a minute remaining, Barncastle, the girl who sealed the deal for the Lady Raiders in their game matchup with Penn State, grabbed an offensive rebound and added a put back to put Tech up by four with 45 seconds left.

The game seemed to be over, but the thorn in the side of the Lady Raiders seemed to be Tiffany Bias the entire night. Even though she went 4-for-17 shooting on the night, she hit a three pointer with 20 seconds left to bring the Cowgirls within one.

The Cowgirls were then forced to foul Monique Smalls after she caught the ensuing inbound pass. She then made the two ensuing free throws to put Tech up by three with 15 seconds left.

It looked like the Cowgirls would have one last shot, but on the inbounds play, Smalls forced Bias into an offensive foul sealing the deal for the Lady Raiders.

The win was the 13th in a row for the Lady Raiders and second in a row against the Cowgirls.

"We were able to make some plays when it counted the most and it seems like this bunch finds a way to do that," Curry said. "Eventually it may swing the other way, but I feel good our kids and what they're trying to do."

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