Early Exit

The Lady Raiders fell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to USF on Saturday night.

What you can do I can do better.

That is how the waning minutes of the Lady Raiders opening round matchup with the Bulls felt, as every time Texas Tech would gain a slim lead or cut down the South Florida lead – the Bulls would answer.

"It was a little difficult because every time we tried to get a lead they would come back and answer right back, they responded," Tech senior Monique Smalls said. "We kept fighting, we're the kind of the team that didn't stop fighting. You know we made a three and the next thing you know they make a three, we still came back and pushed. We never gave up."

In the end the Bulls made just a few more shots than the Lady Raiders, sending Tech to yet another early exit out of the NCAA Tournament for the second time in just three years with a 71-70 loss.

"I was proud of this team," Tech head coach Kristy Curry said. "I thought they gave them everything they had, we just weren't able to make a few plays down the stretch. As hurt as we are right now, as disappointed, I certainly don't want to take away from the year these kids have had. I'm very proud of them, I'm proud to be their coach and I'm proud how they represent the double t."

Tech (21-11) for periods of time struggled shooting from the field, opening the door for South Florida.

The Lady Raiders finished the game shooting just 34.4 percent from the field and 35 percent from beyond the arc.

Christine Hyde led the charge for the Lady Raiders scoring 20 points going 7-for-13 from the field and Chynna Brown and Kelsi Baker, 17 and 15 points respectively, followed her up.

But foul trouble caught up with Brown and Baker late in the second half, Brown getting her fourth with 10 minutes and 29 seconds left in the game and Baker fouling out with 5:41 left on the clock.

Even with two of the three leading scorers in the game in foul trouble, Smalls said they had to keep playing.

"We tried to not let that affect us," she said. "We have players that stepped up and even though those two went out we still kept trying to attack the goal and get rebounds."

Baker said she was proud of her teammates for how they kept playing after she fouled out.

South Florida (22-10) took advantage of Tech's foul troubles in the second half, taking the lead with 12:08 and never surrendering it the rest of the way securing the first NCAA Tournament victory in program history.

"It feels good because we are a close team that plays hard and works very hard," Andrell Smith said. "We've got a great coaching staff and a great head coach so it feels good to get this win for him."

Inga Orekhova, who entered the game averaging 12.2 points per game, turned in her first 20-point game since scoring 22 against Seton Hall on February 16.

Orekhova led all Bulls with 20 points going 5-for-9 from three-point range, and was joined in double digits by Smith, Courtney Williams and Alisia Jenkins, scoring 13, 12 and 10 points, respectively.

"I thought our kids really executed down the stretch and they showed a lot of resolve and they stayed together," South Florida head coach Jose Fernandez said. "I'm very proud of this group."

With the loss another season comes to an end for the Lady Raider basketball program and another early exit from the tournament.

Despite the first-round loss, Baker said the season still overall was a success.

"It was a great season, there's nothing we could do about this game, we lost by one," Baker said. "Everybody came out and played hard there is nothing we can do from here on out. We are happy about our season, our seniors played great."

Now the attention for the Lady Raider program turns abruptly to the future.

Tech losing the senior class that has taken the Lady Raiders to the NCAA Tournament in two of the last three seasons and with the 2011 tourney bid, the first time since 2005.

Replacing the senior class will be tough because they were special, Curry said, but the future is bright with the new players coming in and future prospects.

"We're excited," Curry said. "We have a great recruiting class coming in. We have two commits in 2014 and really excited about the future. The class we have coming in very much mirrors our senior class and is more talented coming in on paper. Obviously this class has been special, and feel good about our returnees coming back and our front line, our entire front line returns except Christine (Hyde) who's really naturally a three. So we're really excited."


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