It was a game of aggression and hustle for the Lady Raiders as they battled the Lamar Lady Cardinals and came out with a 73-52 victory, despite first half struggles.
Lamar entered the arena ready to play hard against Texas Tech and displayed its preparation on several of the opening possessions.
“I liked our toughness,” Tech coach Kristy Curry said. “We had adversity. Adversity is all about how you handle it.”
Curry started four senior guards in the game, going with Chynna Brown, Christine Hyde, Casey Morris and Monique Smalls to start the game alongside junior forward Kelsi Baker.
The team got off to a slow start and seemed unable to find the bottom of the net. However, Tech’s aggressive defense kept the game within reach.
Hyde was the first to score a field goal during the game.
Lamar senior guard Kalis Loyd followed with a 3-pointer to quiet the fans in United Spirit Arena. Tech seemed unable to stop the flow of the Lamar offense during the first half of the game.
Hyde continued to give the Lady Raiders hope as she made a 3-point shot, putting the Lady Raiders back on the board.
Her effort gave the team momentum and Morris followed with a shot at the same spot on the floor, putting the team in closer range of Lamar, the score 13-16 with eight minutes left in the half.
Tech struggled during the first half with its free throws, something with which it struggled last season, as well. In the first half, the team made 50 percent of its free throw attempts.
Hyde drove to the hoop for a layup and followed with a block on the defensive end. However, it did not stop Lamar from getting the ball and scoring.
Tech junior forward Jackie Patterson then drove to the basket for a layup. Lamar senior guard Carenn Baylor put an end to the momentum Tech had created for itself when she hit a 3-point shot.
Both teams scored consecutively on multiple possessions, Lamar never allowing Tech to break away in the first half.
“Credit how Lamar played,” Curry said. “I thought they played great. They shot the basketball really well. Credit to Coach Tidwell and his team there. It wasn’t really anything that we were doing bad.”
Brown continued to hustle as she drove to the basket and hit a layup, but on the other end did not have the same luck. Lamar sophomore forward Dominique Edwards hit a 3-point shot with a foul by Brown, giving Lamar an opportunity for a 4-point play.
Hyde hit two crucial free throws with less than 30 seconds left of play in the half to decrease Lamar’s lead to six points.
Baker opened the second half with a layup for the Lady Raiders and Morris followed, which lessened the differential to 2 points.
“The second half of the game got very physical,” Tidwell said. “Tech got to the rim and scored, or we fouled. They stepped it up. They played like a Big 12 team. They did exactly what they had to do. They are very well coached. They are going to be a factor in the Big 12, I think.”
The team came out of halftime with a renewed energy. Free throws and shots were falling more consistently for the Lady Raiders.
Curry told the team to come out of the half and stay positive and stay together, and not to run from the challenge.
Morris’s defensive energy resulted in a steal, creating an opportunity for the Lady Raiders to tie the game, but Tech could not convert on any attempts.
The Lady Raiders outrebounded their opponent 41 to 26.
“Casey probably played her best game today,” Curry said, “She didn’t force any shots. She let the game come to her. She had her hands in the passing lanes and she had some great rebounds.”
The team was given another opportunity, and this time took advantage of it. Patterson came off the bench and, within moments, scored to tie the game 38-38. The defense forced a turnover for Lamar created by Smalls with a steal.
Morris contributed with a layup, which allowed Tech to have its first lead of the game since the opening minute. Brown followed with a big 3-point shot for the team to put it ahead 43-40.
Morris finished the game with 13 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals.
“I think the coaches were reiterating at halftime to make adjustments after the first half wasn’t going our way,” Morris said.
Smalls forced the defense to separate and drove to the basket for a score. The Lady Raiders appeared as if they were a new team upon returning to the court after halftime.
Patterson proved aggressive off a missed 3-point shot by her team, boxed out, grabbed the rebound and scored, establishing a 7-point lead for the Lady Raiders with just less than 13 minutes remaining in the game.
However, the Lady Cardinals did not give up without a fight. The Tech defense tightened up and forced mistakes by the Lamar offense.
The free throw percentage of the Lady Raiders improved dramatically between halves. The Lady Raiders shot 93.3 percent from the free throw line during the second half.
“We wanted to come out and be more aggressive, attack, get to the foul line,” Curry said. “To see us shoot 93 percent from the foul line is just so exciting because we’ve got to make our free throws.”
Hyde’s two layups allowed the team to take a double-digit lead, forcing Lamar to take a timeout with less than five minutes left to play. With an assist by Morris, Hyde was able to get a fast-break layup and was fouled on the play. The play cemented Tech’s 73-52 victory against the Lamar Cardinals.
Hyde finished the game with a career-high 25 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
Hyde said she does what she can to contribute to the team, whether by getting rebounds, running in transition, or doing whatever she can.
“We came together,” she said. “We were talking, we were communicating out there. I feel like the more we communicate, the more chemistry we have on defense and that leads into offense.”
In women’s basketball, no win is easy, Curry said.
“It’s great for us,” Curry said. “There is nothing easy across the country. We are just pleased with the way we handled the adversity and responded.”