The Texas Tech Lady Raiders held Abilene Christian to only seven points over the final 8:50 of play, but the increased defensive intensity came too late as the visitors from down the road escaped the United Spirit Arena with a 58-57 win. But it might never have come to that had the Lady Raiders taken care of business on offense early in the game.
Tech opened the contest playing the sort of stifling defense they used to finish it, holding the Wildcats scoreless for the first four minutes and eight seconds. Had the Lady Raiders been clicking offensively, they would have commanded an early double-digit lead. As it was, they were only up six points when ACU finally scratched.
In the early going, it was strictly the Amber Battle show for the scarlet and black. Battle, who finished with a game high 26 points on 11 of 19 shooting, paced the Lady Raiders in the first half, and indeed, staked her team to an eight-point lead with 10:49 remaining until the break. Battle's layup at that juncture, her seventh and eighth points on the night, put Tech up 16 to eight and the Lady Raiders appeared poised to cruise to the expected easy win. But the Wildcats had other ideas.
ACU used some tough defense of their own to hold the home team scoreless for a three-minute stretch late in the first half, although the Lady Raiders also missed on several open looks from the outside. Nevertheless, before a Battle layup with 4:27 to play, the Wildcats had clawed to within a single point.
Abilene Christian closed the first half on a hot shooting streak, connecting on five of their final seven shots, to take their first lead on a Renata Marquez three-pointer with 2:48 left, and extending the lead to 30-26 at the break.
In the first half Marquez was ACU's big gun, putting up 13 points. The Lady Raiders were an icy one of eight from three-point country and one of five from the charity stripe. They were also negative seven in rebounding.
In the second half, the Wildcats fed the Lady Raiders a heaping buffet of Dimbas—local products Suzzy and Lizzy—and it made Tech plumb sick. When Suzzy connected on a layup with 16:55 to play, the Wildcats took the lead 37-35, and it was an advantage they begrudgingly maintained almost to the finish. Almost.
After falling behind by 12 points, Tech kicked up the defense and rode the clutch and intelligent post work of Kellyn Schneider and the deadly shooting of Minta Spears all the way to the precipice of victory.
The rally began at the 8:41 mark when Spears sent in a harpoon from three-point range to pull the home team to within nine points. At the 4:01 mark she fired home another to make the score 53-52 ACU and the 4,100 in attendance were making noise. Then, with 47 seconds left, Spears' third trifecta of the afternoon gave the Lady Raiders their first lead since late in the first half.
But with 21 seconds remaining, Spears missed the front end of a one-and-one situation, Kellyn Schneider fouled Lizzy Dimba on the other end, and the ACU freshman calmly put them both down to give the lead back to the Wildcats with 3.2 seconds left. Lizzy stole Tech's inbounds pass at halfcourt and held the ball until the final buzzer.
The Lady Raiders open conference play against No. 20 Oklahoma in Lubbock on January 2.
Lady Raider Rally Falls Just Short
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