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Strong bench play key for Lady Raiders in toughest test of non-conference slate

Tech plays Michigan State on Thursday, hopes depth can help provide knockout blow

Posted: December 18, 2012 - 12:13am  |  Updated: December 18, 2012 - 1:29am
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Texas Tech's Amber Battle drives past Northern Colorado's Molly Duehn during their game on Sunday in Lubbock. (Zach Long)  Zach Long
Zach Long
Texas Tech's Amber Battle drives past Northern Colorado's Molly Duehn during their game on Sunday in Lubbock. (Zach Long)
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There’s no question the strength of the Texas Tech women’s basketball team is in its starting guard play.

When a team has three senior guards on the floor during the opening tip, there are bound to be good things happening on the court.

But those starters have to come off eventually, and it’s up to the Lady Raider bench to keep up the flow — which is exactly what’s happened during the last month.

The Tech bench has been just as strong in its role the last seven games, all wins, and it will have its biggest test of the season against Michigan State (9-1) on Thursday and Oregon State (6-4) on Friday in Las Vegas.

“We feel like our depth and our bench will really help us,” Tech coach Kristy Curry said about the upcoming match with the Spartans, who play the Beavers on Wednesday. “Especially with them. They’re playing back-to-back games, we’re playing back to back games. So it will be good. Our bench has got to help us.”

The best evidence of Tech’s depth in the bench came before the Lady Raiders’ recent run of success.

Following a 65-61 loss to New Mexico in the second game of the seasons, converted post player Christine Hyde took over the power forward position and hasn’t relinquished it since. She is Tech’s second-leading scorer and top rebounder.

Hyde took over for Jackie Patterson, who struggled earlier this season, but has since come off the bench to provide a spark on the boards and inside.

Amber Battle, a sophomore guard, is generally the first player off the bench for the Lady Raiders, and she kept up Tech’s athleticism while giving the starters a rest.

“She’s been a real spark,” Curry said. “Obviously tremendous athleticism and quickness, and she comes in an impacts the game with an offensive board or a quick transition basket or her long arms defensively with a deflection.”

Battle went down with what Curry called a back injury in Sunday’s 68-41 win against Northern Colorado, but Curry reported Monday the X-rays came back negative. She expects Battle to be ready to go Thursday, but will evaluate Battle on a day-to-day basis.

The Lady Raiders (8-1) will look to pester the Spartans with their pressure defense, and guard Monique Smalls said the bench will be integral in that endeavor.

Furthermore, with the Spartans arriving as the best team on the Lady Raider non-conference schedule, Smalls believes the bench’s strong play can potentially give Tech an upper hand in the coming games and when Big 12 Conference play begins in January.

“In conference they’ll be ready to deliver no matter what the situation is,” Smalls said, “because we’ve been in a lot of situations these last few games.”

Michigan State only utilizes about seven players, Curry said, so the coaching staff went over how key the bench will be Thursday.

Senior guard Mary Bokenkamp, who leads from the bench, said she tries to keep the energy up on the bench for when their number is called.

“Michigan State isn’t super deep,” Bokenkamp said. “So we know that we have that advantage of having people on the bench that can come in and produce and help out the starting group. That’s definitely important for us.”

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