Tech's Lady Raiders learned the last answer to their NCAA tournament questions Monday as starting times for the four games of the first round, all to be played in Dallas Saturday, finally firmed up.
"We're happy with where we are in the bracket," junior point guard Erin Grant said Monday. The Texas Tech Lady Raiders are preparing for first-round NCAA tournament action Saturday night in Dallas.
The Lady Raiders face UT-Arlington, a 21-9 squad whose victory in the Southland Conference tournament earned them a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in their school's history. The Lady Mavericks are not entirely strangers to the Lady Raiders: Dallas Bishop Lynch graduate Ashley Bobb, a 5-11 redshirt sophomore who has turned in several double-digit scoring performances this season, played at Texas Tech two seasons ago as a walk-on.
For Alesha Robertson, Tech's 6-0 sophomore forward, the game offers an opportunity to play against a former teammate: Tojjinay Thompson is a 5-9 forward with UTA who hails from Plainview. Thompson is listed as a 1-year letter winner in the Lady Mavericks' roster, although not a regular starter. Two of UTA's starters were twice named conference players of the week during the season: senior forward Rola Ogunoye, a 6-0 graduate of Cedar Hill, and sophomore guard Terra Wallace, a 5-7 guard from Austin Leander.
The Lady Raiders' game is set to tip off 30 minutes after action closes in the 6 p.m. match between North Carolina State and 12th-seeded Middle Tennessee State University. Tech's Lady Raiders now have been invited to sixteen straight NCAA postseason tournaments. Tickets to the game are available through the Texas Tech Athletics Ticket Office, 806 742-TECH. A $45 per ticket admission covers all three sessions, but fans may buy $15 tickets for individual sessions.
Dallas hosts three sessions during the preliminary rounds of the NCAA tournament, a situation Tech head coach Marsha Sharp commented on Sunday after the Lady Raiders' placement and first-round opponent announcements.
"We're always thrilled about the opportunity to play in front of all of our fans in the Metroplex area," Sharp said, "and certainly to have our fans here in Lubbock have an opportunity to get down there with us."
"It's been a situation that we've been working on for over a year with Texas," she said. "Trying to put something together at Reunion Arena, the city of Dallas was awesome with us trying to put something together so the three of us share responsibility for this tournament."
For Lady Raider fans and Lady Longhorn fans – Texas is the No 3 seed in the Chattanooga Regional, and meets No. 14-seed Oral Roberts in a Saturday game tipping off at 11 a.m. – Reunion Arena represents familiar surroundings. Both teams have played here in past Big 12 Conference Tournament games. After the Texas game, No. 6 seed Georgia meets No. 11 Rice to complete the morning session.
"I think it'll be a great event," Sharp said. "We're familiar with Reunion Arena; we played conference championships there for a long time. I think we're comfortable there. From that perspective, I think it's a great thing, and it certainly feels better to me than going to Missoula (Montana, last year) for the first round."
Prior to the Lady Raiders' game, a 6 p.m. tip-off puts the only two teams not comfortably familiar with Reunion Arena – No. 5 NC State and No. 12 Middle Tennessee – in action. NC State and MTSU, like Tech and UTA, earned their invitations to the tournament in the Philadelphia region. Winners of the first-round games meet Monday for second-round eliminations; from there, winners advance to the semifinals of their respective regions.