Lady Raiders host Aggies

Katy Pounds' hometown fans may not see her play basketball Saturday night in United Spirit Arena. The Shallowater native earned her first start of the year January 30 when Texas A&M hosted the Texas Tech Lady Raiders in College Station, but the six-foot-tall freshman has been sidelined with a stress fracture in her foot since that game. The Aggies bring a 13-10 season record and a 3-9 Big 12 Conference mark to Lubbock for their second game of the year against No. 15th-ranked Texas Tech.

The game is the second in a string of five Tech must win to share in the Big 12 crown.

Three weeks ago, Tech won 67-54 in Reed Arena. A win will give them two victories in a row for the first time this month; after a 5-0 conference start the Lady Raiders' season turned rocky when Kansas State came to Lubbock January 22. After losing to the Wildcats on a closing-seconds bucket by Kendra Wecker, Texas Tech notched a home court win over Missouri, won on the road at A&M – and lost a second close game at home to Baylor February 5. Tech's season record stands at 18-5. The Lady Raiders' 9-3 Big 12 Conference record suffices for a second-place tie with Iowa State and Texas.

In the four games since they last faced the Aggies, Tech has lost at home to Baylor, won at home against Iowa State, lost to Texas in Austin, and beaten Kansas in Lawrence. Tech head coach Marsha Sharp's squad wants to use every advantage available Saturday night – the Lady Raider Nation's often-vociferous support, their knowledge of the Aggies' arsenal gained in the earlier match, and the familiarity of playing a Big 12 South opponent.

Despite two losses in their last three games, A&M has a chance at playing in postseason tournament competition this season – their first such success in Big 12 history. The Aggies need one more win this season to finish above .500 – and if they draw a tournament bid for the postseason, second-year head coach Gary Blair's streak will continue. Blair took the Arkansas Razorbacks to the NCAA Tournament in his second year there, a repeat of his feat after taking the reins at Stephen F. Austin University's women's basketball program.

Tech will probably start one sophomore, one senior and three juniors; Alesha Robertson and Cisti Greenwalt have led the Lady Raiders in scoring all season. Chesley Dabbs, LaToya Davis, and Erin Grant have stepped their upperclassmen's leadership up a notch this season, individually and as a group. With only one senior starting – and no other seniors among the backup players – the Lady Raiders are a young team; but after 25 games, they're far from a green one, now; and they have some size across the line.

Erin Grant, the smallest Lady Raider, is a 5'8'' point guard; Dabbs and Robertson measure 6'0'' out on Tech's wings, while power-forward Davis stands 6'1''. Greenwalt, Tech's starting center, is a 6'5'' force in the paint. She's also the league's best shot blocker, ever, and her career scoring total is 995 points.

A&M's starting squad boasts two freshmen – A'Quonesia Franklin at the point guard position, and Morenike Atunrase, thrice-named Freshman of the Week in the Big 12 Conference, join juniors Erica Roy and Tamea Scales and senior Charlette Castile. Four more freshmen have had a sizeable impact on the Aggies this year, including Pounds. Franklin leads the league's newcomers at the point; Pounds was the first freshman to lead the team in scoring this year, while Atunrase is second; Patrice Reado also has three Freshman of the Week awards this season. She, Franklin and Atunrase lead the conference in steals by freshmen.

The Lady Raiders' freshmen come in strong from the bench; Darrice Griffin, a 6'0'' forward from Seagraves, has developed into a defensive standout and one of the best free-throw shooters on the squad. Judith Smith, a 5'8'' guard, provides the Lady Raiders – and Lady Raider Nation fans – a spark whenever she sets foot on the hardwood. Freshman center Erin Myrick maintains the wall inside with aplomb and substance. Redshirt forward Tawanna Flowers' presence has given needed relief for starters Robertson, Dabbs, and Greenwalt already this year. Tech's backup point guard is 5'10'' Brooke Baughman, a sophomore.

In their last outing the Lady Raiders spanked Kansas' Jayhawks by 66-53.

"We were really excited to get another chance to come back out and perform better than we did at Texas, especially offensively," junior point guard Erin Grant said after the game. "We wanted to get back on track offensively and try to finish out conference well.'' Grant scored four points and dished out nine assists for the night; she hit two of three from the charity stripe and collected a rebound as well as blocking one shot and stealing the ball twice – but Wednesday night, for the first time in four outings, Grant wasn't Tech's top scorer.

Classmate LaToya Davis, Tech's power forward, took that title with 14 points and seven boards in just 18 minutes on the floor. The junior opened the game with a jumper at the 19:34 mark after a pass from senior center Cisti Greenwalt. Davis picked off a rebound from Kansas' second miss on the same possession; Greenwalt scored on a jumper to double Tech's lead, 4-0, at 18:32.

Tech never looked back. Davis had barely gotten warmed up for the Lady Raiders – she pulled down an offensive rebound and scored on the put-back plus collecting a foul by Kansas' Taylor McIntosh. When Davis' free throw sang through the net Tech led 7-2 and the junior forward from Houston owned five of those points. Davis scored the next two for the Lady Raiders as well, this time helped by Grant's assist, then Kansas' Aquanita Burras fouled Davis again. That free throw went awry and Kansas' Crystal Kemp yanked down the board. McIntosh turned the ball over, but Tech's Griffin, who had come in for Davis, missed her first jumper and Kemp took away the board.

Kansas' Kaylee Brown put up the Jayhawks' first attempt from three-point country to no avail; Griffin grabbed the rebound out of the air and, just 10 seconds later, extended Tech's lead to 11-2. Though Kemp sank a trey on the next Jayhawk possession, Tech's Robertson responded with a steal and a lay-up and the Lady Raiders led 13-5. Kemp's jump shot caromed off the back iron; Griffin grabbed another rebound, but Grant lost control of the outlet pass to put the ball back in Kemp's hands. She set up a downrange strike by Erica Hallman. Tech got the ball back on a Hallman foul and Griffin sank a bucket. Hallman returned the favor only to have Robertson add two for the Lady Raiders off Grant's pass. Kemp misfired again and junior forward Chesley Dabbs pulled down the rebound – her first ever against Kansas – to set up a three-pointer by Robertson. Tech led 20-10 at 12:40.

Freshman center Myrick helped extend the lead, as did Dabbs; Davis came back into the game with just over 11 minutes to go in the half and added another successful jump shot off a pass from backup point guard Baughman. Tech stayed ahead by no fewer than 10 points for the rest of the game; for most of the second half the Lady Raiders led by 20, getting help from freshman Smith's three-pointer just before the half as well as a Dabbs trey. Tech led 37-16 at the break.

Tech's bench contributed 17 points to the win, led by Griffin with eight on 3-of-7 from the field and two of two from the charity stripe shooting. Griffin had four rebounds and a block in 22 minutes of play. Myrick contributed six points, shooting 3-for-4 from the field while pulling down two boards, blocking one shot, and dishing out a pair of assists inside. Quicksilver guard Smith, like Myrick a true freshman from California, hit her only attempt from three-point country, but missed both attempts inside the arc while collaring one steal in seven minutes' play. Levelland product Flowers blocked one shot as well as stealing the ball once.

Greenwalt scored 10 points and had eight rebounds, a block, an assist, and three steals. Foul trouble in the second half restricted her to a total of 26 minutes' play. Robertson had a 12-point night with 5-of-10 shooting from the field; she made her only free throw and brought down a rebound to go with three steals, a block and one assist. Davis' 14 points came on perfect 6-for-6 shooting from the floor augmented by two of four from the charity stripe; she collared seven rebounds while playing 18 minutes. Dabbs had nine points, two boards, four dishes, and a steal for the night to complete the starters' performance.

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