Determination Drives Lady Raider Victory

Texas Tech's Lady Raiders used disappointment to build on Tuesday night against the visiting Penn State Lady Lions – and what they built, on disappointment and determination, was a second-half turnaround that ultimately won the game 79-65.

Those numbers are deceptive. Early on the Lady Raiders appeared not to have an answer for the Lady Lions' center, Amanda Brown. At the half she was the only scorer in double figures, with 10. Penn State head coach Rene Portland's defensive strategy had been surprisingly effective against Texas Tech, and the fast-paced attack that came with it kept right on coming on behind the driving force of senior Tanisha Wright.

Cisti Greenwalt controlled the opening toss for the Lady Raiders, but point guard Erin Grant's feed to junior forward LaToya Davis at the far end went for naught. Wright recovered the rebound and sophomore Jennifer Harris converted at the far end to give Penn State a 2-0 lead. Davis lost the ball to Brown's banditry on the next possession, but Wright blew the jumper and although senior Ashli Schwab snatched the rebound, her shot didn't fall either. That put the ball back in Greenwalt's hands for the first of her seven boards; the senior center collected 21 points to lead all scorers. She corralled five blocks in her 29 minutes on the floor.

Sophomore forward Alesha Robertson's jump shot went wide for Tech; Lady Lion senior Jess Strom grabbed the rebound and sent her first assist of the night to Schwab on the fast-break layup. The crowd came to its feet to roar its approval as junior guard Chesley Dabbs answered with a long jumper and put Tech on the board at the 18:21 mark.

Wright missed her next attempt and Robertson snagged the rebound. Tech's sophomore standout would fight her way through the crowd under the bucket for nine boards on the night to go with her 12 total points and pick up two assists, including one in the middle of the play of the game when she relayed a pass to Davis for a layup. Greenwalt missed a jumper and Brown returned the favor. Off Greenwalt's next rebound came a pass that sent Robertson driving down to tie the game with 17:16 left in the half. Dabbs promptly stole the ball from Strom, but Harris swiped it back from Grant and Wright scored again.

Robertson hit her first three of the night on the next play, but the Lady Lions answered by rebounding a Strom misfire; Brown sank a quick shot and Penn State led again, 8-7. Four minutes into the game Tech had brought down not a single offensive rebound; Penn State led the overall rebounding five to three.

Greenwalt hit a jumper plus both free throws to take the lead back at the 15:40 mark, but the Lady Lions chose to show off their own patience and ball handling on the next play, working through a series of nice passes to put Brown back in scoring position. She took advantage of it only to have Dabbs break the tie with a jumper on the following possession. The defensive battle continued, with both teams collecting an unusual number of fouls. Darrice Griffin, the freshman forward, swapped in to rest Davis at 15:40 and announced her presence with a rebound. Wright fouled, and Greenwalt sank a jumper to put Tech back in front at 14-12.

Senior guard Jennifer Brenden sailed up a misfire from three-point territory and Robertson slashed through the crowd for another rebound; the score stayed steady until Robertson fouled Penn State's sophomore guard, Jennifer Harris, who sank both her free throws to tie the game again. Grant would score next ; Harris's miss presented Griffin with another rebound, but Tech again could not convert. For the first half the Lady Raiders hit 12 field goals in 39 attempts and three of seven from beyond the arc; at the free throw line, Tech improved to 83.3 per cent on 5 for 6 shooting as Robertson sank two of three attempts, Greenwalt one, sophomore point guard Brooke Baughman two, and freshman center Erin Myrick one.

With the lead seesawing back and forth, Dabbs swatted aside a Wright jumper and corralled the rebound, then fed junior classmate Grant for two. Harris' next miss became another Griffin rebound, but Strom interrupted Greenwalt's pass for a steal and drew a foul off Grant in the process. She sank her free throws to tie the game again; a block and a rebound and a turnover later, Brenden hit her first trey of the night to give the Lady Lions a three-point advantage at 19-16. Penn State would stretch that lead to five despite Robertson's free throws.

Grant collected her second foul with 11:45 left in the half, and exited to put Brooke Baughman in the game; Penn State tried to work the ball inside but the series of passes took too long and the shot clock ran out on the Lady Lions.

Judith Smith's trey kept Tech in the game, but her three turnovers in the first half also prevented development of the rout the Lady Raiders wanted as neither team could convert on several consecutive possessions between the 8:04 and the 5:41 marks. Erin Myrick broke the drought with a jumper to bring Tech within a bucket at 23-26, but the next score wouldn't come until only 2:39 remained. Davis's jumper brought Tech within one. Brenden's misfired pass struck the referee on its way out of bounds. Another minute elapsed and Dabbs sank a three to put the Lady Raiders ahead 28-26. Davis fouled Brown who sank one free throw; Brenden retrieved the rebound from the other but Myrick blocked Strom's attempt and grabbed the rebound. Dabbs missed again, Strom rebounded, and Davis blocked the jumper Penn State's Amanda Bland tried. Strom turned the ball over and Bland, a freshman guard, got caught for a chop on Tech sophomore Baughman, who promptly sank both her free throws to give Tech the lead 30-27.

On Penn State's next possession Strom turned it over again; the Lady Raiders took a 30-second timeout with 10 seconds left in the half. Baughman's inbound pass set up Davis as time ran out, and the half ended with Tech ahead 32-27.

The Lady Raiders' 11-point run over the last three minutes of the first half left Tech without a single player in double figures, and occurred while Baughman had command of the offense and Myrick had the floor at post to protect Grant and Greenwalt against further foul trouble; but of the nine players who had been on the floor for Tech, only one had not scored. The early dearth of rebounds had abated too, as Tech had 13 offensive rebounds and 15 defensive rebounds at the end of the half.

Penn State had nine offensive and 15 defensive boards for a team total of 24; they led scoring from the paint at 16 to 10. Each team had two points on fast breaks and eight turnovers at the intermission. Tech trailed in steals at three to Penn State's five, but led in blocks at five to one and in assists at eight to four.

Tech came out of the locker room with a lead, though, and first Dabbs, then Greenwalt, found the range. Up by 36-29, the Lady Raiders gained breathing room when Greenwalt made both free throws after Wright's third foul and Davis sank both hers after Brown fouled. Greenwalt poured 16 points through the net after the half; she collected three blocks and three rebounds in the second stanza.

Griffin got all three of her points after the half; Dabbs added six to finish with 13. Robertson, who sank four of twelve including two of six from three point range, and Davis, who hit four of seven from the field and all four from the charity stripe, closed the night with 12 apiece. Grant finished the night with nine points hitting four of seven from the field and one of two free throws, and 1 assist while successfully stealing the ball twice. Smith put in a highly respectable 15 minutes, collecting five points, three rebounds, four assists and two steals. Myrick played for 11 minutes, scored two points, misfired on one free throw, grabbed six rebounds, and blocked one shot. Baughman played 12 minutes, hit two of two from the free throw line and missed two of two attempted treys, added two assists, a steal and two rebounds.

For Penn State, Schwab played 22 minutes, scored six points, and grabbed two rebounds. Harris had a five-for-13 night from the floor, hitting three of four from the charity stripe and neither of her treys to finish with 13 points and two steals in 32 minutes. Brown played the most of any Lady Lion; her 38 minutes on the floor brought her cause 12 points, four blocks, two steals, and 11 rebounds, the sole double-double of the game.

Strom hit three of 11 from the floor, one of three beyond the arc, two of two from the free throw line, collected five boards and two assists, and had one steal. She also accounted for seven of Penn State's 17 turnovers. Wright, who had come into the game averaging 22.2 points per outing and off a four-game streak of 20 points or better, was held to 19 points and six assists, committed five turnovers, collared six rebounds, and sank only nine of 19 from the floor. She hit her single free throw. Brenden contributed 17 minutes, one assist, seven rebounds and six points. Bland had 17 minutes, one assist and three boards. Hazel Joseph played two minutes and Adrienne Squire three for Penn State.

After the game, Lady Lions head coach Rene Portland praised her opponents.

"I really thought we'd give you a better game," she said. "That's the most turnovers we've seen on our guards."

Penn State is finishing a pre-conference season noteworthy for its lack of home games. The Lady Lions, now 5-5 for the year, have won all their home games; their next match is a Big 10 game against Ohio State December 30.

"I don't want to take away from the great moves by Cisti," Portland, in her 25th year at the Penn State helm, said. "Your team made some great adjustments in the second half, and really matched our intensity. It didn't amuse me that they did so."

Of the Big 12 teams her squad has faced, Portland said she believes Baylor the toughest opponent. "They're extremely deep, and they have a balanced team. (Baylor coach Kim Mulkey-Robinson) runs everybody in and out, and they just keep coming at you."

Texas beat Penn State 84-69 on November 14, and Baylor defeated the Lady Lions 91-70 on December 11. Both those games, like the Tech match, found Penn State on the road.

"We're going to be happy to go home, and the Big 10 is going to be fun, too."

After the game Greenwalt said she felt the difference between the first and second half performances of the Lady Raiders had been a matter of physicality. "I think it came down to being more physical. I think maybe against Virginia Tech we kinda were a little soft."

Lady Raider head coach Marsha Sharp acknowledged the effect of Sunday's defeat on her team. "First let me say that we're really proud of the win tonight. We have a lot of respect for Penn State and Coach Portland. We were really excited to have the opportunity to play them.

"I think (the Lady Raiders) did a good job of letting Sunday go, and focusing on this game. It's important for us to be able to do that."

She said she was pleased with how her players had responded to the recent loss. "They were all extremely disappointed Sunday night … We saw that there were some things we had to fix ... I think tonight we did that, we closed (the game) a little better.

"Tonight in the first half we didn't shoot the ball real strong, and it kind of turned into a defensive battle for us. But then in the second half we shot 56 percent from the field and made a lot of free throws. We worked hard to fix some things we saw during the first half. I really liked the balance. We had a lot of people in double figures tonight; we had a lot of different people score for us."

Of Tech's late rally in the first half, she said, "Brooke (Baughman) came in and ran us well, I think. I think she learned some valuable lessons Sunday, and I thought the play she set up for us was a great play at the end of the first half. I thought that was a great pass and a great catch (by Davis) and a great shot."

Coach Sharp also spoke of the Penn State head coach's career. "Rene Portland is a close friend of mine, and she has a great program. You can't talk enough about what she has meant to the game, and to women's basketball. She's had to fight some real battles, and I have a ton of respect for her. She has a great team and they're going to make a lot of noise in the Big 10 conference."

Wrapping up the press conference, the Lady Raiders embarked on a short rest: their next game is December 28 against Sacramento State in the USA at 7 p.m.

"I want to say how much we appreciate the fans who came out. They were loud and they really helped us. We have great fans, and we really want to thank them for coming out to watch us, taking time during Christmas week to watch us, and we hope they'll come back the 28th," Coach Sharp said.

Texas Tech improved its record to 7-2 for the season with the win.


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