Lady Raiders Have ‘A Lot Riding On' Sunday

Three weeks. Six ball games. Four road trips, starting with Texas. Is Sunday's game the key to a successful conference season for the Texas Tech Lady Raiders?

"Certainly it's important for us," Tech's head coach, Marsha Sharp, said. "If we win, we can probably stay tied for first; if we lose, we might be fifth.

"The ramifications are big," she said. "We've got a lot riding on it."

Tech, then ranked 13th in the country, defeated Texas in Lubbock 79-62 January 12. The University of Texas' Lady Longhorns traveled to Lubbock with an 8-3 record, after a stunning upset, 60-63, by Baylor in Waco, and were ranked 12th in the nation. In that game, Tech's sophomore forward Alesha Robertson led all scorers with 26 points and held Texas' senior Heather Schreiber to four for the game. Robertson scored 22 points in the second half, including a three-point dagger at the 13:36 mark.

"That three by Robertson was huge, no question," Texas' head coach Jody Conradt said afterward. The shot gave Tech a seven-point lead and stopped the Lady Longhorns' biggest run cold. "After that three by Robertson, we broke down."

Robertson's player-of-the-game performance included six rebounds, hitting six of seven free throws, blocking a shot, stealing the ball twice and producing four assists – one of them a spectacular pass to Cisti Greenwalt with two minutes left in the first half.

Texas' Conradt blamed the defeat on a defensive meltdown and a lack of consistency; of her team at the time she said, "We are trying to find ourselves."

Since then the Lady Longhorns have found ways to win at home, whether they have rediscovered themselves or not. In the eight intervening games, all six Longhorn victories have come in Austin. Texas has two road losses -- to the University of Connecticut in non-conference action, and to Iowa State's Cyclones in a game that gave ISU sole possession of the Big 12 Conference lead.

"As a lot of us can say," Tech's coach Sharp said, "they're playing better on their home court than on the road.

"When I watch them, what I see is that Nina Norman has taken a lot more ownership in the team," she said. "They're trying to put the ball in her hands and let her create some offense for them."

This game has the potential to make, or break, the Lady Raiders' final standings for the season. Tech stands No. 13th in the Associated Press poll this week, and No. 12th in the USA Today/ESPN/ coaches poll; Texas holds the 17th spot in both polls. ESPN-2 will broadcast the game, scheduled to start at 4:20 p.m. CST.

"The ramifications it has are big for our season and for this team. It may not be this game, but there will be one Big 12 game that we're involved in," coach Sharp said, "that will have an impact on how we finish in the standings.

"There are only three weeks left in the season. I think it's an important statement about the Big 12 Conference that there are six or seven teams within a game or two of winning the conference."

The Lady Raiders' ability to win the game Sunday will hinge on controlling the game's tempo and disrupting Texas' game plan as well as defensively containing Tiffany Jackson.

"This cannot be a transition game for us. We have to make it a half-court game. It cannot be a transition game," coach Sharp said. "We can't let them get out in transition and score an easy bucket."

In the eight games since they faced Texas, three Lady Raiders have been injured, but those players' recoveries are progressing well.

"I think we're pretty healthy," Sharp said. "It's the second time we've had a little bit of an extended break; before the Baylor game we had a week and I think that was important for us because LaToya (Davis) needed that time. We played on Tuesday (against Iowa State) and then we're off ‘til Sunday, and that's a little longer break than you usually get in conference play. That's going to be a good time for Cisti in particular to get well ... she practiced yesterday, and was fine, and I think today she's full go."

Greenwalt injured her left ankle in Tuesday night's game against Iowa State; in the Baylor game February 5, Robertson suffered a second-degree ankle sprain. LaToya Davis sprained her knee against Missouri January 26.

Texas Tech, 17-4 on the season, is currently 8-2 in Big 12 Conference games; along with Baylor, Kansas State, and Iowa State, they are tied for first place. Texas is 14-7, 7-3, and in sole possession of fifth place.

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