Leading 26-20 against Oklahoma State on Wednesday night, Chynna Brown popped the ball away from Oklahoma State’s Kendra Suttles at midcourt, uttered a soft roar of excitement and took the ball the rest of the way for an easy fast-break lay up.
Brown’s steal and dash to the rim was part of a 29-6 run that put the Texas Tech women’s basketball team up 35-22 with under three minutes left in the opening half of its eventual 61-53 victory against the Cowgirls.
Extended runs, paced by hard-nosed defense and quick breaks on the wings, have ultimately led to several double-digit advantages in the first half of Tech’s games this season. It’s become something of a trademark for this year’s team.
But letting its opponent back in the game has also been something Tech has been known to do. The Lady Raiders (21-7, 11-5 in Big 12 Conference play) will try to grab that big lead but not lose it when it visits Kansas State (13-15, 4-12) at 12:30 p.m. today.
In each of Tech’s past three games — all victories — the Lady Raiders used strong first-half runs to build double-digit leads, but then allowed runs in the second half to erase the comfortable margin and put the final outcome in doubt.
Tech coach Kristy Curry said her team needs to stay aggressive and not play the game like its playing “not to lose.”
“We really need to continue to be aggressive,” Curry said after Wednesday’s game. “I thought we missed a couple easy baskets. Those easy baskets sometimes turn into four- or six-point runs, and we got to do a better job of trying to finish easy baskets.”
Once Tech went up 35-22, it failed to score the rest of the half as the Cowgirls whittled down the deficit to seven at the break.
In the Lady Raiders’ 72-70 victory at Kansas on Sunday, Tech used a 19-4 run to end the half and take a 16-point lead into intermission. Kansas eventually battled back to tie the game at 70 with 18 seconds left before an aggressive Christine Hyde take to the rim won the game for Tech.
A week before that, the Lady Raiders used a 20-2 run to take a 13-point lead against Texas before allowing the Longhorns to come storming back and eventually take a brief lead in the second half.
Tech’s coach gives some credit to the strength of the teams in the league that can make those runs, but she knows the onus is on her squad to make the plays it’s supposed to.
Curry said she would like to see more finishes on easy baskets in transition, along with trips to the free-throw line and second-chance points.
There isn’t a complicated fix to sustaining the runs, though, according to Tech guard Casey Morris.
“Just keep on getting in the gym and be confident in our shots,” Morris said Wednesday.
The Lady Raiders did a good job of finishing strong in the first half and putting the game away with a second-half run the first time they played the Wildcats, grabbing a double-digit lead at halftime and boosting it to 19 before late jumpers by K-State made it a 59-50 final score.
While Tech has won three in a row and is in position to clinch at least the No. 3 seed in the Big 12 tournament with a victory, the Wildcats are losers of eight of their past nine games.
However, K-State may be coming out a little hungrier than normal thanks to senior night, and the Lady Raiders hope they can shut down senior guard Brittany Chambers, who is second in the league in scoring at 19.8 points per game.
So before Tech can think too much about protecting and building on a lead, it must first take one.
“We know we’ve got our hands full,” Curry said, “and obviously it’s going to be a game of mismatches and who we can take advantage of, and defensively we got to go in there and play smart and really hard and keep them off the foul line.”
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