Big 12 play begins today for the Texas Tech women’s basketball team, and the Lady Raiders face a big test right off the bat.
The preseason conference favorite, No. 25 Oklahoma, comes to town for a 6:30 p.m. game at United Spirit Arena.
“It’s time to go, and we open with Oklahoma here,” Lady Raiders coach Candi Whitaker said Wednesday. “We’re the underdogs. It’s going to be a challenge, but we’re excited to compete and want to keep fighting every step of the way.
“It could be huge for us to just come in and play well. They were picked first; we were picked tenth. I think if we can show that we can hang with people that it’s a season that we’re going to battle for.”
The Sooners are 9-4 with losses to No. 7 Louisville, UCLA, No. 3 Duke and Marist.
In Oklahoma’s 66-35 victory Sunday over Samford, senior guard Aaryn Ellenberg did not play because she had a concussion.
Freshman guard Derica Wyatt stepped in to take Ellenberg’s place, making her first start.
She finished with 11 points after making her first three 3-point attempts.
Wyatt is now No. 5 in the conference in three-point percentage with .429.
Currently three Sooners are averaging double figures — Ellenberg with 18.3 points per game, junior guard Sharane Campbell with 13.4, senior center Nicole Griffin with 11.6 and senior guard Morgan Hook with 10.7.
The Lady Raiders (6-5) will either have to shut down the Sooners offensively or find a way to score more points to keep up.
Oklahoma is averaging 84 points per game, and Tech has scored in the 80s only once this season, in a win over Grambling State.
“They have a great inside attack,” Whitaker said. “They have a great post player with a lot of size inside and great shooters around. They’re smart. They know how to play. They’re a great team.
“We’re going to have to do a good job defensively guarding their actions and taking away their first and second options and making them get down the road with third or fourth options.”
Griffin, standing at 6-foot-6, is Oklahoma’s big target down low, hitting 59.8 percent from the field and pulling down 5.8 rebounds a game. She also has 21 blocked shots.
Griffin and Texas Tech senior center Haley Schneider both average 1.6 blocks per game. The Lady Raiders have senior Shauntal Nobles down low as well, averaging 0.8 blocked shots.
Both Oklahoma and Texas Tech play with four guards on the perimeter, but the Sooners have a little height advantage when they put 6-1 sophomore guard Nicole Kornet in.
“Often their (power forward) has more guard skills,” Whitaker said. “I think in that regard we’ll match up OK, but we’re going to have to do a great job of providing help in the interior of our defense.”
Junior guard Audrisa Harrison has found her role, averaging double-digit rebounds in the World Vision Challenge the weekend before Christmas.
Whitaker said Harrison has recovered from a hyperextended knee she suffered on Dec. 21.
When Harrison isn’t in, junior guard Amber Battle can rotate over and post up, score on the lob pass or take someone off the dribble from outside.
Battle comes into today’s game averaging more points than anyone on the court with 18.4. She also leads the conference in rebounds at 9.3 a game.
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