There was plenty for Texas Tech women’s basketball coach Kristy Curry to cheer about during the second half of her team’s 73-52 win against Lamar on Saturday.
The Lady Raiders overcame a six-point halftime deficit by putting together perhaps their best 20 minutes of basketball this season after intermission, paced by a career-high 25 points from Christine Hyde.
But Curry’s most enthusiastic reaction came on a seemingly innocuous play in the first half. Just moments after checking into a game for the first time this season, junior forward Shauntal Nobles knifed between a pair of defenders in the post and drew a foul that sent her to the free-throw line.
Curry raced up the sideline until she was near midcourt, pumping her fists and shouting, “Atta girl! Atta girl!”
Clearly, this was no normal trip the free-throw line.
Nobles missed the first six games of the season following a diagnosis almost two months ago of Guillian-Barré Syndrome, a rare disorder that attacks the immune system. Nobles has slowly worked her way back over the last few weeks and finally began warming up with the team and dressing out for the last four games.
She only played six minutes on Saturday, but Curry said her return — however brief — lifted the team more than any statistics could describe.
“It’s emotional,” Curry said. “Nobody but the folks in that locker room know what she’s been through. What we’ve been through the past two months has been very emotional. It’s been gut-wrenching for this team to sit back and watch her. But it’s a credit to her. It’s a credit to our training staff. Larry Munger (the team’s athletic trainer) is the best in the country.
“It’s unfortunate what happened, but I always tell them, ‘It’s not what happens to us. It’s how we handle it.’ She’s handled it unbelievably.”
Hyde, whose stretch of seven straight points in the second half helped Tech pull away, is Nobles’ roommate. She said the two have talked and cried for long hours over the past two months. Hyde said “it hurt my heart” watching her close friend be relegated to the sideline through the first six games of the season, but the emotions were far different Saturday.
“As soon as she came back on the floor,” Hyde said, “I felt nothing but joy and happiness for her.”
Hyde seemed to be bolstered by her friend’s return. She aggressively attacked the basket throughout the game on the way to a career performance. She shot 9 of 18 from the field and 6 of 7 from the free-throw line.
Hyde is still developing into her role as a post player this season and admits the learning curve has been steep, but her ability to muscle her way into the paint and beat the Cardinals in transition paid dividends.
“In my opinion, I feel like I’m still struggling in the post,” Hyde said. “I just do what I can. I feel like if I just play hard with effort and go to the boards and run in transition ... I feel like I’m finding my position. I’m becoming more comfortable in my role.”
Casey Morris added 13 points and seven rebounds in what Curry called the senior guard’s best performance of the season.
Lamar hit 8 of 14 shots from 3-point range in the first half on the way to 34-28 lead at halftime. But the Lady Raiders extended their defense in the second half — the Cardinals made just 2 of 7 shots from the perimeter after intermission — while imposing their will inside to the tune of a 41-26 rebounding edge.
Tech also hit 93 percent (14 of 15) of its free-throw attempts in the second half.
“The second half the game got very physical,” Lamar coach Larry Tidwell said. “We could not be as physical as what was going on in the lane. That was a big determining factor in the game.”
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