As a Lady Raider, Candi Whitaker remembers playing Texas, going 2-2 against the Longhorns during her two years.
Now as Texas Tech women’s basketball’s head coach, Whitaker knows the intensity this rivalry brings.
“I think when I played, it was really Texas and Texas Tech who were the premiere programs in the state of Texas,” Whitaker said. “I’m excited to go to Austin.”
Things have changed since Whitaker was point guard for Tech.
Now, the Lady Raiders are winless in conference play, and Texas is 14-7, good for No. 4 in the Big 12.
Entering tonight’s game, Whitaker wants her team to compete for a full 40 minutes, something Tech has struggled with recently.
“The times that we’ve been close, we’ve had a let down in our intensity and our mental focus in the last three minutes (of games),” Whitaker said. “It needs to be the opposite. We need to tune it up that much more.”
In order to keep up the intensity and compete the whole game, freshman guard Minta Spears said it’s a personal thing.
“You got to go out every game wanting to play, wanting to compete and wanting to give it your best,” Spears said. “By doing that, you really see a team out there. When we’re playing like a team, we can beat anyone.”
Freshman guard Diamond Lockhart thinks the intensity starts in pratice.
“Going hard in every drill,” she said. “We need to focus more. I know we’re young, but that’s not an excuse anymore.”
In practice this week, Whitaker has stressed being physical to her team, especially down low against the height of the Longhorns.
“Competing, boxing out, being extremely physical on the boards,” Whitaker said. “Post defense. Their interior is so good and they do a great job of high low and pounding the ball inside. That’s got to be a focus defensively for us.”
On Saturday against Kansas, Tech played both 6-foot-5 senior forward Haley Schneider and 6-foot-3 senior forward Shauntal Nobles.
Whether it be in man defense or on the back line of the 2-3 zone, having two players taller than 6-feet helped the Lady Raiders.
“Against Texas, we’ll have to show some of that,” Whitaker said. “They’re just so big inside and it’s just such of focus of their scoring that there’s going to be some times when we definitely need to go big.”
Texas plays two forwards, 6-foot-1 junior Nneka Enemkpali and 6-foot-2 senior GiGi Mizionyte, as well as a pair of centers, 6-foot-5 freshman Kelsey Lang and 6-foot-7 Imani McGee-Stafford.
Enemkpali leads the Longhorns in scoring and rebounding with 13.4 points and 9.5 boards a game.
McGee-Stafford chips in 9.8 points and 6.9 rebounds.
On the perimeter, Texas leads the Big 12 in three-point field goal percentage at .368 but shoots the lowest amount of threes in the conference at 307.
Sophomore guard Brady Sanders is No. 2 in the Big 12 shooting .422 from behind the arc while senior guard Chassidy Fussell is No. 8 at .379.
On the boards, Texas is No. 4 in the conference for offensive boards with 15 per game and No. 2 on defensive boards with 30.2.
“We’re going to try and be as physical as we can,” Whitaker said. “Move our feet, get around in the post and then try not to leave them as much. (There’s an) emphasis on getting a body on them every possession. They’re great at hunting the ball off the glass.”
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