Lady Owls Swoop Into Lubbock

<b>Cristy McKinney</b> and her Rice Lady Owls will visit the USA on Monday for a date with the Texas Tech Lady Raiders. Rice stands 2-1 including a victory over McNeese State, and a 70-61 loss to EVI. Coach McKinney has been at the helm of the Rice program for 12 years compiling a 192-130 record, and her team is tabbed to finish second this year in the WAC behind Louisiana Tech.

Let's take a closer look at the Owls. Rice is led by two 6-2 post players, Lauren Neaves and Michelle Woods. As a sophomore, Neaves is averaging 23 points a game and 7 rebounds while senior Michelle Woods checks in at 27 points per game and 12.5 rebounds. Both have been selected preseason as All-Western Athletic Conference players. Coach McKinney was gracious enough to give us her thoughts on the upcoming match between the Owls and Lady Raiders.

Raider Power: What is your take on the games you have already played? Who are your top players this season?

Cristy McKinney: The two games we have played have definitely been a learning experience. Hopefully we will take from them what we learned and become a better basketball team. Our top players should be Lauren Neaves and Michelle Woods at the post positions. On the perimeter we think Krystal Frazier, Maudess Fulton and Amber Cunningham are all capable of making significant contributions. Woods is an inside-out player who can score from the perimeter or post up. Frazier, Fulton and Cunningham are quick, athletic wing players. Neaves is a low post player who can score and is a pretty solid defender.

RP: How do you see the Lady Raiders as an opponent?

CM: A very tough opponent with skill at every position. They have a great floor leader in Grant and a lot of quality scorers for her to get the ball to. They play aggressively offensively and defensively.

RP: What do you have to do against Texas Tech to win?

CM: We have to do a lot of little things well to have a chance to beat Texas Tech. A huge key is to not get overwhelmed by their talent and aggressiveness, their tradition and the atmosphere (their crowd)."

RP: What do you think about Marsha Sharp?

CM: Coach Sharp is one of the best coaches and people in this business. She does a great job with her team every year and represents our profession with tremendous class.

Let us gaze into the ol' crystal ball and speculate on what might be expected in the game against Rice and future games.

Marsha Sharp, who is known for her hard-nosed man to man defense, has thrown in a new wrinkle this year. Having the luxury of several fleet-footed perimeter players and four shot blocking girls in the paint, Marsha has employed a stingy 2-3 zone. The zone defensive has been quite effective this year in shutting down opponents.

While the Lady Raiders have shown balanced scoring this year, it is not a secret that the key to Tech's offense is post, Cisti Greenwalt. Cisti has averaged 18.5 points and 10.5 rebounds a game. Cisti looks to be a player on a mission and has shown a skill level and work ethic of a senior leader. Bolstering the inside with Greenwalt is junior, LaToya Davis, whose workman-like efforts and hustle have garnered her 13.5 points and 5.5 rebounds a game. Surprising to some is the incredible play of freshman, Darrice Griffin, who has almost equaled LaToya in the numbers game with only 37 minutes of play. Darrice offers Marsha two substitution options. She can ably rest LaToya or take LaToya's 4-spot while LaToya plays the 5 to rest Cisti. As she gains experience and confidence, Griffin will have a huge impact on the Lady Raiders' season.

Chesley Dabbs has become the new "darling" of the team with her silky shot and her fastbreak reverse lay-ups. "Silk," as some call her can "light ‘em up" with the best of them.

Alesha Robertson has been somewhat quiet to this point. But remember, Alesha is a "prime time" player. She is at her best when the chips are down and the game is one the line. Poetry is defined as a smooth, high-arching Robertson 3-pointer that barely rustles the net.

With all of her skills, Brooke Baughman has only played 23 minutes this season. Brooke can play two or three positions, can break the press, handle the ball and shoot the three. Listen to the "crystal ball." Brooke will break out at some point in the year and be the instrument for a Tech win.

And what about Judith Smith? Judith played 27 minutes in the last game and participated on the two most exciting plays of the game. Her quick hands and instincts will generate steals, fastbreaks and excitement on the court. Please, pay attention when Judith has the ball, her lightening quick, unorthodox passes will catch some by surprise and lead to some thrilling scores for the Lady Raiders.

Erin Myrick gets better every day. She is a force to come for the future of the team. E2, as she is sometimes called, is only 18 years old , but is maturing fast and will be a "force in the paint."

What more can you say about Erin Grant? She is a "coach on the floor" and demands the best from her teammates. Erin acquires great joy in dishing the ball to other players for a score. Erin, know that you can shoot and your team will be much more dangerous should you score the way all have seen you do when the Lady Raiders need a basket.

With only 6 minutes of playing time this season, Patrice Edwards has yet to show the skills that she can bring to the court. A wise decision by the coaching staff is to make sure her knee is as close to 100% as possible before launching into the rigors of Division I basketball. Patrice will be a force as she is athletic, can run the floor, and at 6-6, can rebound and score inside.

New faces and veterans will be ready when the Lady Owls come calling for Monday night's 7:00 P.M. tipoff.

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