Big 12 Semifinal Matchup Features Tech, Baylor

<p>With their first 2005 Big 12 Conference tournament victory behind them in a down-to-the-wire, close-scoring contest, Texas Tech's Lady Raiders are fired up for a third game against Baylor's Lady Bears Thursday.

Seven days ago Baylor beat Texas Tech a second time in the same season, adding a 10-point victory in Waco to a three-point surprise in Lubbock February 5 -- an outcome that left a very bad taste indeed in the Lady Raiders' mouths. Just last season Tech had beaten Baylor – relatively easily – in both regular season matches only to have the Bears knock Tech out of the Big 12 Conference Tournament. Now, the roles reverse in a tournament semifinal.

"Third time's a charm, Alesha said," junior guard Chesley Dabbs said after fourth-seeded Texas Tech, ranked No. 14 in the nation, survived a hard-fought quarterfinal game Wednesday, defeating Iowa State's Cyclones 61-59 on the strength of sophomore forward Alesha Robertson's pair of perfect free throws with 2.7 seconds remaining.

"It's only been seven days since we played them last time," Texas Tech head coach Marsha Sharp said of the Bears Wednesday. "Everything they did is pretty fresh in my memory, and I think in the players' (memories) too."

"We know we have to come out strong," Dabbs said. "We're going to beat Baylor."

Fox Sports Network's women's college basketball team of Kevin Eschenfelder and Debbie Antonelli will call the game the network's telecast, slated for a 6 p.m. Central Standard Time tip-off; radio coverage is available via the All-Sports Radio Network with Ryan Hyatt and Crystal Boles calling the game on Lubbock channels 790 KFYO AM and 98.1 KCCL FM.

Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson, asked about differences between the upcoming match and the earlier contests between the two teams, gave a tentative smile and a shake of her head. "It's the same thing it always is with Texas Tech. They're in a place where we want our program to be, and we try to emulate them in our program.

"They've done so much for the sport of women's basketball, and Marsha is just a jewel," Mulkey-Robertson said. "They're where we hope we can be someday."

In her fifth year at the helm of the Bears, Mulkey-Robertson has shrewdly recruited and passionately inspired her squad, ranked in the top 10 nationally for most of the 2004-05 season. Their performance earned her Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year honors.

Against the Cyclones, Tech's players acquitted themselves well: Dabbs scored in double digits for the 17th time this season as she finished with 13 points. LaToya Davis, Tech's junior starter at power forward, collected double-digit rebounds for the 7th time this year as she set a career mark against head coach Bill Fennelly's squad with 10 boards. Center Cisti Greenwalt, Tech's lone senior, had her sixth straight double-figure scoring game, and the 21st of the year, as she contributed 12 points to the win.

Freshman Judith Smith hit two treys for the Lady Raiders, one late in the game to push Tech to a five-point lead at 59-54 and give the team an emotional spike as well as a little breathing room on the scoreboard.

Tech's ultra-dependable point guard, junior Erin Grant, tied her own league tourney fourth-place mark for assists in the second-round game with nine and her career high against Iowa State with both nine dishes and a dozen points as she collected double-figure scoring for the ninth time this year. En route to giving the Lady Raiders their win, freshman forward Darrice Griffin scored in double digits for the second time in her career. She finished with 13 points, a career high against Iowa State. Robertson's baker's dozen points, also a career-high against Iowa State, included clutch free throws that kept her season mark perfect in the final two minutes of a game; she has gone six for six and now has 17 games scoring in double-digits.

The win puts the Lady Raiders' season at 22-6 overall as it gives them a 7-4 series lead over the Cyclones.

Baylor slammed the University of Missouri's Tigers 70-52 despite Christelle N'Garsanet's second double-double of the season. The Bears took the regular-season championship one week ago when they defeated Tech 79-69 in Waco.

Baylor, the sixth different team to take home a league crown in Big 12 Conference history, finished the season 14-2, followed by the University of Texas at 13-4 and a three-way tie at 12-4 between Kansas State University, Iowa State University, and Tech. Kansas State received the tournament No. 3 seed by virtue of beating Tech during the regular season, while the Lady Raiders earned a bye in the first two rounds and a No. 4 seed by having beaten ISU in Lubbock. Missouri overcame Kansas in a first-round game for the right to play Baylor Wednesday, while Iowa State beat a beleaguered University of Colorado team on a three-point shot at the buzzer Tuesday in order to play Tech in the quarterfinals.

In other quarterfinal games Texas beat Oklahoma 65-59, powered by sophomore center Tiffany Jackson's 25 points, and Kansas State overwhelmed Nebraska 71-45 Wednesday night. In that game Wildcat senior Kendra Wecker broke former teammate Nicole Ohlde's all-time Big 12 career scoring record; the 19 points she scored raised her career total to 2,248. Kansas State plays Texas in the second semifinal game Thursday night.

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