Kristy Curry reached the NCAA tournament in all seven of her seasons at Purdue, including a trip to the finals in 2001.
But until Wednesday, Curry had never in her previous 12 seasons as a head coach had a team open with a 10-0 record. Her Lady Raiders managed that Wednesday with a convincing 75-38 victory against Western Kentucky at United Spirit Arena.
Apples and oranges for Curry, maybe, but there might be something special about the 15th-ranked Lady Raiders.
“We had some great teams at Purdue,” Curry said, “but I believe this team has a greatness about them. My teams at Purdue that were so successful were great people, and this is a great bunch of kids off the floor.”
Tech is off to its best start since the 2003-04 squad that started 15-0 and finished 25-8 under Marsha Sharp.
The Lady Raiders shook off Saturday’s sluggish performance in Chicago, where they held on for a 70-64 victory against Illinois.
Curry saw to that by jumpstarting Tech with an aggressive man-to-man defense and full-court pressure that led to an 11-0 run.
“I thought I needed to do a better job in this game of getting us going early,” Curry said. “I thought we made them rush some quick shots and some misses gave us a chance to run out of it. We want to make sure our defense gives us a chance to run and be effective.”
Tech racked up 13 steals, including five from junior guard Monique Smalls and three by Casey Morris, who also led all scorers with 11 points.
Smalls’ defensive pressure didn’t let up even late into the second half, when Tech had already amassed a 30-point lead.
“My intensity comes from the fans,” Smalls said. “The fans get into the game, it pumps up your head and gives you extra energy. And on defense, if I don’t get a steal, I know my teammates are going to get it because putting a lot of pressure up top helps the post get steals.”
Smalls, Kelsi Baker and Chynna Brown added nine points apiece to a balanced offense that shot 54 percent from the floor.
Brown, who was 1 of 7 shooting in each of her last two games, came off the bench four minutes into the opening half and connected on three of her first four shots, including a 3-pointer. She finished 4 of 5 from the floor and added a game-high four assists.
“I didn’t hesitate,” Brown said. “I shot the ball and tried not to put it on the floor as much, just catch and shoot.”
Western Kentucky’s 38 points were the fewest by any of Tech’s opponents this year. The Lady Toppers (3-9) shot 22 percent from the floor and were 6 for 32 in the first half.
Tech also held Western Kentucky without a field goal during the final four minutes.
The Lady Raiders will head to San Diego next week for a pair of games at the Surf ‘N Slam tournament before hosting Oklahoma State to open Big 12 Conference play on Jan. 4.
Until then, a 10-0 start will make for a pretty joyful Christmas.
“It’s like a great Christmas gift,” Smalls said. “Now you go spend time with family and focus on San Diego next.”
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