West Virginia pushed hard against Texas Tech.
So Tech pushed harder.
The pink-clad Lady Raiders drove the lane at will against the Mountaineers on Wednesday night, countering an aggressive Mountaineer press with 42 trips to the free-throw line and ultimately a 76-63 victory against West Virginia.
Tech shot 85.7 percent from the foul line, making a season-best 36 free throws.
“You’ve got to attack pressure with pressure,” Tech coach Kristy Curry said. “You can’t be passive. That’s just the bottom line. That’s our philosophy: If you’re going to pressure us, we’re going to attack it with pressure, and I thought our kids did a great job tonight of not being passive.”
West Virginia tried to force turnovers and mistakes with an aggressive full-court press after each Tech basket and reset. It worked well for parts of the night, as Tech turned the ball over half-a-dozen times on inbound plays. When it didn’t work, though, the Lady Raiders countered by rotating the ball around until someone grabbed the keys and drove to the rim.
Four Lady Raiders scored in double digits, led by Casey Morris’ 20 points. Chynna Brown scored 17, and Kelsi Baker and Monique Smalls each chipped in 13.
Amber Battle dropped in nine in 23 minutes, her most playing time in Big 12 Conference play.
Battle earned more playing time partly thanks to starter Christine Hyde’s absence. Hyde was suspended for one game for a violation of team rules.
West Virginia trailed 29-17 at halftime but could never get back within two possessions until late in the game, when Taylor Palmer intercepted an inbound pass and scored with 1:52 to go. Palmer led WVU with 19 points.
Tech’s last field goal came with 6:32 left, giving the Lady Raiders a 58-46 advantage, and West Virginia made just enough shots to creep back.
However, the Lady Raiders hit 13 of their final 14 free throws to seal the game and a regular-season sweep of the Mountaineers.
West Virginia coach Mike Carey showed his frustration by picking up a pair of technical fouls with 11 seconds left, leading to his ejection and four Morris free throws.
Carey was careful about what he said after the game about all of Tech’s trips to the free-throw line, not making an opening statement or fully addressing his feelings about the 30 fouls called on his team.
He said Tech drove on his players nonstop in the second half, much like it did the first time the two teams met this season. (A 77-73 overtime Lady Raider victory).
“Well, give them credit. I don’t want to take anything away from Tech,” Carey said. “They drove us, man. They did a good job driving us, but I don’t know 36 times. ... They lowered their shoulder and got in there and they either make you foul them or they score.”
Carey was disappointed that seemingly all the players on the Lady Raiders could drive on his team.
“Even their five player can drive you, too,” said Carey, referring to Baker.
Curry said her players competed with no fear, keeping with the game plan of going north and south on the Mountaineers (13-9, 5-6).
“It’s just playing without any fear and being aggressive and having the confidence to be aggressive,” Curry said. “We talked a lot the past two days about pushing back. You got to have a push mentality with everything you do, and you got to go north-south on those guys. You can’t go east-west. You start going east-west, it’s going to be difficult.”
West Virginia briefly led in the first half, but a six-minute field-goal drought meant the end for the Mountaineers. The Lady Raiders turned a 9-7 deficit into a 16-9 lead at 8:01 before halftime.
The teams traded baskets to make it a 18-14 Tech advantage, but West Virginia again went cold, not scoring a point after the 5:59 mark until a Christal Caldwell 3 with 36 seconds left.
The Lady Raiders stopped seeing the West Virginia full-court press, taking a 29-14 lead on, what else, an aggressive take and free throw by Morris.
“We just went through our sets and took our time and we weren’t rushing through anything and taking the first shot,” Morris said. “We ran our offenses through, and we’ve been talking about that in practice as well. So we just brought what we learned in practice.”
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