Texas Tech Outlasts Oklahoma 70-64

"One down and fifteen to go," Texas Tech Lady Raiders' head coach Marsha Sharp said after her team fought back to overcome the Oklahoma Lady Sooners 70-64 at the United Spirit Arena Wednesday night. "You always want to win, for a lot of different reasons. Tonight it was, for us, a 1-0 start in the Big 12 Conference."

From the moment freshman forward Darrice Griffin's larger-than-life image on the Raider Vision scoreboard screen issued the traditional challenge, "Lady Raider fans, the time is now. Are you ready?" through the final buzzer, in keeping with expectations for not just the first conference game of the season but for every meeting between Texas Tech and the University of Oklahoma, the outcome remained in question until the final seconds.

Sooner charity shooters missed half a dozen attempts over the course of the game, while the Lady Raiders hit 14 of 18 on the night from the stripe.

At the end, a tenacious Lady Raider defense held Oklahoma at bay until the shot clock ran out with 31.8 remaining. Chelsi Welch fouled former teammate Alesha Robertson, who sank both halves of her one-and-one, and the Lady Raiders led 69-64. Oklahoma missed on its next possession and Chesley Dabbs seized the rebound; Dionnah Jackson fouled and Dabbs hit one free throw to give Tech the last point of the night.

On the next play, Erin Grant tore through Oklahoma's passing game to steal the ball for the final possession.

Oklahoma slapped the tip-off into Grant's waiting hands to start the contest; Tech's junior point guard headed down court in control, but the offense sputtered when her classmate LaToya Davis misfired from the top of the key. Sophomore forward Robertson muscled in among the crowd to retrieve the first of her five rebounds for the evening, and fed the ball back to Davis, who sent Tech up 2-0. Oklahoma came right back; Leah Rush and Tech senior center Cisti Greenwalt traded misses, but Sooner guard Rush hauled down the board and headed down court for two to tie the game.

Texas Tech's favorite weapon of late has been junior guard Chesley Dabbs, who posted 11 points and snatched six boards; but her first shot of the night, like Davis's and Greenwalt's before it, went wide from the vicinity of the free-throw line.

Plainview native Chelsi Welch's trey gave the Sooners their first lead at 5-3; Sooner forward Laura Andrews' miss gave Rush a rebound and she converted the put-back, extending the lead to 7-2 with 17:25 left in the first half.

Dabbs drained a jumper and on the next play Davis leaped into the middle of a Sooner pass; she flew down court alone for a lay-up that cut Oklahoma's lead to one, but then Welch and Davis tangled underneath. One whistle, a foul on Davis, Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale's swap of Rush out and Beky Preston in, and two free throws later Oklahoma had one more point.

But Davis had another rebound. This time she passed it off; the ball came to Greenwalt underneath for two plus a Preston foul. Greenwalt's free throw caromed off the back iron and Dionnah Jackson snagged the rebound, but when Erin Higgins missed at the Sooner end, Robertson burst out of the crowd with the ball. Tied at eight, Dabbs misfired again. On the far end, Greenwalt blocked Welch's shot, and Oklahoma called a timeout with 15:27 left in the half. Rush and Davis exchanged buckets to knot the score at 10, and back-and-forth the lead went again, helped by treys from Rush and Grant. Dabbs ad Jackson exchanged lay-ups, and then Greenwalt walked. Jackson misfired, putting the ball back in Greenwalt's hands, but Robertson missed, and Britney Brown took away the board. Lauren Shoush scored for Oklahoma to give them their biggest lead at 22-15.

Davis and Rush swapped misses, Shoush and Greenwalt swapped rebounds. Then Tech's Tawanna Flowers pitched a nice pass to Davis who swung it around and down in a post-to-post pass for Greenwalt, but the shot would not go. On the other end Higgins missed again and Flowers brought down the board.

Oklahoma's run extended until, despite a bucket from Erin Myrick, Tech trailed by nine with 6:50 in the half. Shoush walked but Lady Raider freshman guard Judith Smith's long jumper failed; the ensuing melee ended in a tie and Oklahoma regained the ball only to have Antoinette Wadsworth miss. Smith recovered for Tech and sent the ball down to freshman center Erin Myrick, who redeemed her missed lay-up by grabbing her own rebound. A turnover followed, but instead of converting Welch lost the ball out of bounds. Smith's next effort was swatted away out of bounds as well. Rush continued to amass points, as did the Sooners' junior center Preston; but Greenwalt and Davis were determined not to let the game get away, as were Smith and Grant. The Lady Raiders recovered from a 23-30 deficit with 2:36 to go, to a 31-34 margin at the half.

Sooner sophomore Rush led all scorers with 23 points and six rebounds; she plagued the Lady Raider defense early and often, finishing the first half with 16 points. But Sharp, whose team was, uncharacteristically, trailing by three after the first period, made an adjustment on defense at halftime: she assigned LaToya Davis, Tech's six-foot-one power forward, to spend the rest of her 37 minutes in the ball game preventing Rush from scoring.

Robertson had scored not a point at halftime for the Lady Raiders, but she came out gunning in the second and sank a three, then drove down to the top of the key for another quick score. Davis and Greenwalt seemed able to score nearly at will in the early second half, and the Lady Raiders opened up the gap to lead 54-46 at the 11:32 mark.

"We started our runs on our defense," Sharp said after the game. An integral part of that defense was Greenwalt's blocking ability, including the block she delivered to a Preston shot underneath with volleyball-kill force.

On Davis' way to stopping Rush, the Lady Raiders' junior star poured in 22 points of her own along with one assist, two blocks and four steals as well as seven rebounds. Davis entered the game as the Big 12's leading field-goal-percentage shooter; she completed nine of 18 attempts from the field, hit all four of her free throws Wednesday night, and was named Tech's player of the game.

"It's always a blessing when Coach Sharp picks you to go and make a big play," Davis said after the game. One of her steals turned into a coast-to-coast conversion the highly-vocal Lady Raider Nation greeted with a roar in the first half, lighting a fire under Tech's offense.

That same crowd freely expressed its feelings all night, greeting Oklahoma's redshirt sophomore guard Welch with a cheer upon her introduction. The Plainview native's scoring efforts drew the crowd's commentary too, though not its approbation.

She produced 12 points for the Sooners on four of nine from the field, including one of two beyond the arc, and hit three of four from the charity stripe to go with two rebounds, one theft, and two blocked shots in 34 minutes.

Officials Charles Gonzales, Bryan Enterline, and Brenda Pantoja heard from the Lady Raider Nation in the stands throughout the evening, as well as from both head coaches. Physical play planted Greenwalt on the floor, flat on her back, several times in the first half; over the course of the game Rush, Oklahoma's senior point guard Dionnah Jackson, Welch, and Lady Raiders Griffin and Robertson would be flattened repeatedly, along with Grant.

"It was pretty physical," Tech assistant coach Linden Weese said . "But (our team) just seemed to say, ‘well, if that's the way it's going to be, let's go get some of it.'"

Texas Tech put together a 10-6 scoring run late in the first half to cut Oklahoma's lead to three at intermission on when Grant sank the last shot of the half. Coming out of the locker room the Lady Raiders latched onto the momentum that run had generated to score seven unanswered points and take back the lead. Oklahoma would answer with a nine-point spree to regain the lead at 55-54 near the 10-minute mark in the second half, but the Lady Raiders recovered, and then the defense simply held – and held again – until time ran out on the Sooners.

Tech's record improves to 10-2 on the season and 1-0 in conference play. Oklahoma is 8-4, 0-1 in Big 12 games.

"We have a lot of respect for Oklahoma," Sharp said. "It was a well-fought, and a hard-fought, battle. … Certainly Rush kept them in the game early, but we made an adjustment in defense and LaToya started guarding her and keeping her away from the basket, and then when she was close we tried not to let her have the ball.

"We had some warriors tonight. I'm very proud of our juniors, the way LaToya defended Rush, who's a great player. Erin Grant played the whole 40 minutes tonight; she ran our offense, and we had some particular places we wanted to go in the second half, and she hit the right place every single time. That's huge, particularly from a coach's point of view, to have that."

For Oklahoma, Andrews played 22 minutes, earning one assist and snatching five boards; Dionnah Jackson collected 13 rebounds, nine assists, two steals, and 13 points. Welch had 12 points and two boards, a steal and two blocks; Higgins had two points, two steals, four boards, and four assists; Lauren Shoush had four points, two rebounds, and two assists. Preston hit one field goal in four tries and had one assist. Kendra Moore played four minutes; Antoinette Wadsworth was perfect from the field and hit half her six free throws, as well as picking up four rebounds and one block. Britney Brown contributed one turnover.

For Texas Tech Davis, who reached double figures for the fifth straight game, posted 22 points and seven boards, one assist and two blocks; Robertson finished with nine points, five boards and four assists; Greenwalt notched the 17th double-double of her career with 10 boards, 15 points and four blocks. Dabbs finished with 11 points, three assists, a block and six rebounds, and Grant hit one of five from beyond the arc and one from the field for five points while collaring a steal, a block, six rebounds and seven assists. The freshmen also contributed: Tawanna Flowers had one rebound and one block in two minutes of play. Erin Myrick hit two of three from the field and picked up four rebounds in four minutes. Darrice Griffin scored two points on one-in-seven shooting but added four rebounds and a block during a 10-minute performance.

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