With a week off between games, Texas Tech women’s basketball had some time to go beyond just focusing on the next opponent and work on themselves.
After the Lady Raiders’ most recent game, a 58-50 victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff in Lubbock, head coach Candi Whitaker was not pleased with her team’s focus or energy.
“I’ve seen that we’ve really been more focused in practice,” freshman guard Minta Spears said. “People are coming to work, and I think that throughout our past few games that people really understand that we’ve got to come and work harder. We’re playing good people, so we’ve got to work harder and get better in practice.”
One area of emphasis has been perimeter defense — Tech is No. 9 in the Big 12 Conference in field goal percentage defense at .392 and is dead last in defending the three, allowing .368.
Both of these areas are staples in Texas Tech’s next opponent, Arizona — who at 1-7 is out to its worst start since 1980-81.
“They’re very athletic,” Whitaker said of the Wildcats. “Both forwards are about 6-foot-1 and very athletic. Their guards are going to put in on the floor and really try to get to the rim … We have to guard the bounce, and that’s something we really haven’t done well so far. We’re going to have to be better and be ready to go.”
Whitaker expanded on the subject and said her team didn’t make any adjustments but broke it down to the “elementary level.”
“If your feet are wrong from the get-go, you’re putting yourself in a position to get beat off the bounce. We just work on the fundamentals and spending time on the basics and hopefully it will carry over.”
For Arizona, junior point guard Candice Warthen leads the way with 14.5 points per game, the lowest total for a team leader since 2005.
Behind her is senior guard Kama Griffitts with 12.6 points per game.
Griffitt’s is Arizona’s three-point threat, hitting .423 percent of her shots so far this year and making 2.8 three’s per game.
If she keeps that up, it would be the second-best mark in Arizona history.
On the boards, Arizona comes in at a 4.1 rebound underdog to the Lady Raiders.
At 6-foot-1, freshman forward LaBrittney Jones is the Wildcats’ best on the glass, but her average of six rebounds a game would be the lowest average for a leader since 1991.
Despite her 5-foot-9 frame, junior guard Amber Battle leads the Big 12 in rebounding with 10.7 per game and in defensive rebounds with 8.0 a game.
Battle is also the only player in the conference averaging a double-double per game with 17.1 points and 10.7 boards.
Spears is No. 2 for Texas Tech with 12.0 points per game.
Spears, Battle and senior forward Shauntal Nobles have started every game for the Lady Raiders, but Tech has only had three starting lineups be consistent with the previous game.
The two, four and five spots are constant, but point guard position has rotated between freshmen Diamond Lockhart and Marina Lizarazu, and the three-guard spot has been between freshmen Jasmine Caston, Lockhart and junior Audrisa Harrison.
“I don’t know if it will ever be set,” Whitaker said of her starting five. “I want practice to be competitive every day, and people will have opportunities all year long to crack into the lineup. (We’re) still trying to find combinations that we play better with, and we’re depending on who we’re matching up with size-wise is going to be an issue all year.”
But not for today’s game against Arizona, a team whose average height is a mere .01 inch shorter than Texas Tech.
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Side by side
Texas Tech Arizona
68.3 Scoring 60.8
64.3 Opponent Scoring 67.0
.403 Field Goal Pct. .392
.313 3-Point Pct. .367
.789 Free Throw Pct. .643
40.9 Rebounds 36.8
11.4 Assists 13.6
19.4 Turnovers 16.9
6.7 Steals 6.5
4.3 Blocks 2.4