Texas Tech hopes to get its first Big 12 win of the season, as does its foe Kansas State, at 7 p.m. today in United Spirit Arena.
“K-State’s a pretty good matchup for us,” Tech coach Candi Whitaker said. “They typically have four guards on the floor sometimes even five. Chantay Caron has guard skills. I think the matchup is honestly the best for both of us.”
Kansas State and Texas Tech split their contests the last two seasons with the home teams winning each game last year.
The last seven meetings between the two teams have been decided by nine points or less, including two games going into overtime.
This season is different as K-State graduated its leading scorer in Brittany Chambers and starter Mariah White while Texas Tech lost four starters to graduation and senior forward Kelsi Baker to injury.
Instead of stepping on the court with experience, these teams are now the youngest in the Big 12; the average age of the Lady Raiders is 19 years and eight months, only one month older than the Wildcats.
True freshman, and Spain native, Leticia Romero leads Kansas State in scoring with 13.4 points per game, rebounds with 6.2 per game and assists with 4.7 per game.
Romero and Tech true freshman guard Marina Lizarazu were teammates on the under-16 Spanish National team that won gold at the 2011 Euro Championships, the under-17 Spanish National Team that won silver at the 2012 World Championships and the under-18 Spanish National Team that won gold at the 2013 Euro Championships.
The Wildcats run a play where both guards and the power forward spread out on the baseline while the center sets a ball screen for Romero, allowing her plenty of space to beat her defender to the basket.
“We’ve worked on several people guarding her,” Whitaker said. “She’s a playmaker. She’s coming off a lot of on-ball so we’re going to have to do a good job of guarding her on on-ball screens. Not that she can’t go left, she can, but she makes a lot of plays going right. We have to do a good job of not making anything easy. She’s going to make shots, she’s going to make plays but we want them to be contested.”
Junior guard Amber Battle is one of the Lady Raiders who has practiced defending Romero.
“Just forcing her left,” Battle said. “She’s a good player. We have to keep her penetration low and our hands up on shots.”
Whitaker said she wants her team to make tonight’s contest a half court defensive game because she feels that Tech still struggles in transition.
“People are running at us full steam ahead and we’re in scramble mode giving up some easier looks,” she said. “We’ve got to get back on transition defense, stop the basketball, take away easy shots at the rim. … Then in the half court we have to continue to guard their stuff. Once we get into the half court, we guard their actions well.”
For Texas Tech offensively, in most games this season the basketball is passed around a few times before a Lady Raider shoots a three, but in the team’s last outing at Kansas, Whitaker was pleased with their shot selection.
“We only took nine (threes) the last game,” Whitaker said. “We’ve been much more patient. Because of that, we took care of the ball at Kansas. We didn’t rebound it. We didn’t take as many threes and got inside more and got to the rim. We just missed too many layups and free throws.”
Battle leads the Lady Raiders in scoring with 17.3 points per game and rebounds with 8.3 per game.
Battle has scored 15 points or more 11 times this season.
Despite Tech’s 6-9 record, Battle says this team has improved.
“When things get tough we just have to fight,” Battle said. “We can’t give up. Just stick together.
“We’re a young team so it’s going to take a long time. We’re learning from our experiences. We don’t try to look at the scores. We just try to look at how hard we play.”
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Side by side
61.0 Scoring 62.1
63.9 Opponent Scoring 65.5
37.7 Field Goal Pct. 37.6
26.6 3-Point Pct. 27.1
72.2 Free Throw Pct. 67.2
37.9 Rebounds 38.5
10.9 Assists 13.3
18.2 Turnovers 19.9
7.2 Steals 7.7
3.7 Blocks 3.1