Texas Tech and Kansas share a lot in common.
Both teams struggled through injuries and went 5-11 during the 2009-10 Big 12 Conference season.
The Jayhawks ended the regular season on a five-game losing streak before bowing out in the first round of the conference tournament. The Lady Raiders ended on a three-game losing streak and fell to Kansas State in the opening round of the Big 12 tournament. Each team competed in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, in which Kansas reached the third round and Tech the second.
The similarities didn’t end at the conclusion of last season, either.
Both teams have a 13-1 record as they square off to open Big 12 play at 7 p.m. today at Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse. Each team is healthy and anxious to end a prolonged absence from the NCAA tournament.
Tech, with its deepest, biggest roster and best non-conference record in coach Kristy Curry’s five seasons, is in its best position to do just that.
“We’ve been waiting since last year, ever since we lost in the NIT, to play the Big 12 again,” sophomore guard Monique Smalls said.
Tech’s only hiccup during the non-conference season came in a 76-68 loss on the road to Penn State. The Lady Raiders won
their four other games away
from United Spirit Arena, coming against New Mexico, Pittsburgh, California and Western Kentucky.
Tech is 56-14 in regular-season, non-conference games under Curry. But the Lady Raiders are 21-43 in the Big 12 during that span.
The team’s depth has been its defining attribute this season and what Curry expects to carry the team through the conference. Big 12 play is certainly when the team will need it most.
“When we have played our best this season is when we’ve had great balance,” she said. “Our bench is going to have to spark us.”
Shauntal Nobles, Kelsi Baker and Chynna Brown have seen significant minutes off the bench and made substantial impacts at key times throughout the non-conference season.
Kansas enters the game with its best record since starting 16-1 during the 1993-94 season. The Jayhawks rank second nationally with a field-goal percentage of 49.5, thanks in part to sophomore forward Carolyn Davis.
She’s averaging a team-best 19.6 points per game with double-doubles in her last two games.
The Big 12 is 99-4 in home games this season, but the Lady Raiders are confident their road experiences have prepared them for Lawrence, Kan.
“Our depth and our versatility is going to be very key,” Tech forward Jordan Barncastle said. “We expect big things from ourselves and each other. We expect to surprise some people.”
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