Kristy Curry said it best after the Texas Tech women’s basketball team’s 77-62 win against Midwestern State:
“You always want to finish strong,” said Curry, whose team used a strong second half to shut the door on the visiting Mustangs in an exhibition.
The Lady Raiders now have less than one week until they start the season, so talk of the finish line is still premature.
However, Tech showed the flashes of a team ready to once again compete on a broad scale, but not until the second half.
“It was a little jittery,” guard Monique Smalls said about the start of the game. “It’s been awhile since we’ve been on the floor, and we were trying to go so fast because we were just so excited.”
Smalls and the rest of the Lady Raiders have good reason to be excited about the season. Tech is still trying to prove it belongs among the elite teams in the Big 12 Conference, and the current senior class represents an ideal group to get back to that level.
With that being said, though, Tech can’t afford to make some of the early mistakes it made on Sunday when they open the season next week against Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz.
Like Small, Curry attributed some of the early errors to opening-night jitters.
“I thought that we looked a little jittery, especially a couple of our new faces,” Curry said.
Tech had 10 turnovers and shot 32.3 percent from the field in the first half, and missed a few inside shots in the early stages of the second half that could have put the Mustangs — coached by former Lady Raider Noel Johnson — away early.
The Mustangs cut an 11-point halftime deficit to 40-32 less than two minutes into the second half, but a 15-4 Lady Raider run put any threats of a stunning upset to bed with 12 minutes left in the game.
Four Lady Raiders scored during the game-clinching stretch, highlighted by back-to-back 3-pointers from Chynna Brown and Mary Bokenkamp.
On the afternoon, 10 Lady Raiders scored, led by Kelsi Baker’s 16 points.
Baker’s career-high is 14, and the junior forward showed increased quickness from end-to-end. Baker fouled out with 5:20 left in the game.
Casey Morris scored 11 points, and Monique Smalls chipped in 10 for Tech, which shot 37.7 percent from the field.
Kirsti Degelia led the Mustangs with a game-high 20 points.
Preseason Big 12 Conference newcomer of the year Jackie Patterson, who transferred from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, scored 12 points, showing strength and a soft touch close to the basket. Patterson led all players with 10 rebounds, and Tech had 21 second-chance points thanks to 23 offensive rebounds.
Johnson was an assistant at Texas State when Patterson high school, and the fifth-year Mustang coach said she recruited Patterson for the Bobcats.
“She’s going to elevate on a lot of people,” Johnson said of Patterson. “I can’t wait to see what she’s going to do in the Big 12.”
While Tech cut back on its turnovers after the half, the Mustangs nearly doubled their giveaways to add to the gap.
Midwestern State had 12 turnovers in the second half, which led to 16 Lady Raider points.
The Mustangs’ turnovers were their Achilles’ heel, Johnson said, but Midwestern State didn’t let the Lady Raiders run away with the game even when getting down by 25 at one point in the second half.
“I saw a lot of good in what happened today, even though we lost by 15,” said Johnson, who added that her players fouled too much because they were out of position.
The Lady Raiders capitalized on the fouls in the first half, going 16 of 20 from the free-throw line, but shot less than 50 percent from the line the rest of the way.
“I thought we started the game pretty well,” Curry said, “but you’ve got to put 40 minutes of free throws together just like everything else.”
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