Today’s Texas Tech-Oklahoma State game will be an emotional one for Lady Raiders coach Kristy Curry.
It will be the first meeting of the teams since tragedy struck the Cowgirls on Nov. 17, when a plane carrying coach Kurt Budke, assistant coach Miranda Serna and boosters Olin and Paula Branstetter crashed, killing all four on board.
“I have thought about him a lot during the holidays,” Curry said of Budke on Monday.
The 13th-ranked Lady Raiders will host Oklahoma State to open Big 12 Conference play at 7 p.m. today inside United Spirit Arena.
“We’ll do exactly what Kurt would want me to do: focus on getting my team ready to play and have them prepared,” Curry said. “I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like for that staff and those kids. We just have so much respect and love for them. We’re going to throw it up and play for 40 minutes and compete at the level we need to, and when it’s over we’re going to hug ’em and continue to keep ’em in our prayers every day.”
Texas Tech will pay tribute to the victims of the plane crash during halftime, then play the Oklahoma State alma mater before the Matador Song at the conclusion of the game.
On Monday, Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy dedicated his team’s Fiesta Bowl victory against Stanford to the victims of the crash.
“I thought it was very classy on his part,” OSU coach Jim Littell said. “I thought it was a great way to honor the special people that we lost.”
The Cowgirls (8-1) have handled the adversity well on the court, not losing until a 64-63 setback Friday against Long Island.
Oklahoma State ranks second in the Big 12 in scoring margin and leads the league in field-goal percentage defense.
“Hats off to them, because losing a coach has to be hard,” Tech junior guard Casey Morris said. “I think we all have a lot of respect for them. ... They’re a strong team and they’ve been through some tough games.”
Oklahoma State has not allowed a team to shoot better than 40 percent in a game this season. But the Cowgirls have yet to face ranked competition.
Littell said rebounding, not shooting, will be the key against Tech (12-0).
“It’s been an Achilles’ heel for us,” he said. “All we’ve done is work on box-out drills, blocking out off the free throw. We’ve spent a lot of time on it, and our kids realize that’s very important for us to win the game.”
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