A Kelsi Baker hook shot with eight minutes, 59 seconds to go in the Lady Raiders’ 59-50 win against Kansas State on Wednesday put them up by 19, their largest lead of the game.
Victory was all but assured, but the Wildcats whittled the deficit to seven with 1:01 remaining for a brief moment of uncertainty.
Two free throws by Tech guard Monique Smalls, coupled with a missed Wildcat 3-pointer, sealed the win, but the message was clear: No lead is safe in the Big 12 Conference.
“I just think that every possession matters,” Tech coach Kristy Curry said Thursday. “You’ve got to value every possession on both ends of the floor.”
With No. 1 Baylor winning its three league games by 39, 34 and 29 points, the rest of the conference is battling for spots two through 10. Only one other game has been decided by more than nine points.
The conference is as deep as it has ever been, so a handful of teams hovering around .500 by March wouldn’t be unexpected.
Really, the only eyebrow raiser this season is Texas’ 0-3 start to conference play. The Longhorns could easily have been 3-0.
Curry said she isn’t surprised, though, by any of the early returns because of how strong each team is.
Even newcomer TCU has found some success, despite an 0-3 start to the season.
TCU led No. 16 Oklahoma at the half on Wednesday, and it took a buzzer-beater from Kansas State to defeat the Horned Frogs
“You’ve got to make sure that you make plays down the stretch and finish strong,” said Curry, whose team held off the Wildcats.
The Lady Raiders’ next task is a 7 p.m. game Saturday against the Sooners in Norman, Okla.
Along with Baylor, Oklahoma is the only 3-0 team in the league.
A win at Oklahoma would give the Lady Raiders another quality road win — to go with their 64-59 win at Oklahoma State last week — which is a necessity come tournament time.
Tech currently is in a three-way tie for third place with Iowa State (which defeated the Lady Raiders on Saturday, 58-54 in Lubbock) and Kansas.
But even if the Lady Raiders lose to Oklahoma, which they’ve done 14 of the last 15 times the two teams have squared off, Tech will have plenty of chances to grab resumé-building wins.
However, that also means every loss will be a squandered chance.
“This league is real competitive every night,” Tech guard Casey Morris said. “It’s going to be a competitive game, and we have to stay composed and know that every night when we go in we can’t just think that we’re playing against a team that’s not going to give us a game. All throughout the conference there have been surprises, so we have to be prepared.”
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