The Texas Tech Lady Raiders own their court.
Texas Tech missed its first six shots of the game. It was down 10-0. West Virginia had a 15-2 run in the fourth quarter.
It didn’t matter.
The Lady Raiders responded, went up big and then held off No. 18 West Virginia 75-66 on Wednesday and remained undefeated this season at United Supermarkets Arena.
It was the first win for Tech over a Top 25 opponent since Jan. 19, 2013 when they defeated Kansas.
“It is a huge win for us and it comes at a critical time,” Texas Tech women’s basketball coach Candi Whitaker said. “We have a tough week with Oklahoma on the road before our bye and then when we come back it is a tough stretch. To get this win before we go on the road really sets the momentum for us and a level of confidence.
“We needed a signature win for them to really believe what we are telling them all the time — that they are good enough to compete with the best in this league.”
Recee’ Caldwell, who finished with a game-high 21 points, hit a pair of 3-pointers to keep Texas Tech (11-5, 3-2) in the game, and then it began slowly chipping away at the West Virginia (14-3, 2-3 Big 12) lead. Arella Guirantes hit a jumper, then on back-to-back possessions Caldwell and Guirantes hit 3-pointers to cut the Mountaineers’ lead to 19-17.
Then Ivonne CookTaylor went to to work. The Tech senior guard hit a pair of free throws, a mid-range jumper and then drove the lane for a hard-fought layup that put the Lady Raiders up 27-23.
Larryn Brooks then did the same, and pushed the Lady Raiders’ lead to six before West Virginia’s Teanna Muldrow drove the lane for an easy score before the first half ended.
But, Tech then brought in a huge spark off the bench.
Zuri Sanders returned from an off-season injury and got her first minutes and points of the season. She hit a pair of free throws in the third quarter and after Jada Terry came up with a steal, she raced down the floor and got the layup off of the fast break.
“It is an unbelievable feeling,” Sanders said. “Rehabbing the entire way with my teammates pushing me jsut for this momebnt. As soon as I heard the fans cheering me when I went in that gave me a sense of calm and I thought, ‘I got this.”
Later, she got a steal right underneath the basket and hit a off-balance layup as time expired in the third to put the Lady Raiders up 51-37. Sanders finished with six points, two rebounds and a steal in 22 minutes of action.
“That is just what Zuri does,” Guirantes said. “When I came here coach said ‘Zuri is the hustle player.’ We got those transition buckets. She just bring such a fierce and emotional lift for our team. She has a fire to her game and it just lit up.”
Tech pushed its lead to 17, but West Virginia came blazing back on the heels of 3-pointers from Tynice Martin and Alexis Brewer. Martin’s second 3-pointer in the quarter cut the Texas Tech lead to 58-54 with 4:47 remaining, and pushed the West Virginia run to 15-2.
Along with Caldwell, though, CookTaylor and Guirantes shared the load late as West Virginia got back into the game. CookTaylor finished with 17 points and Guirantes added 14. Brooks also finished in double figures with 11.
Tied 62-62, Caldwell drained a 3 and then on their next possession drove the lane and laid it in. Then Tech got its biggest play of the game, when Brooks stole the inbound pass and sank two free throws to put the Lady Raiders up 69-64.
“We did come back in the game, but then we started to relax once we tied it up,” West Virginia coach Mike Carey said. “We had two opportunities with the score tied and they hit a two on one and a 3 on the other. It has been the same story all year — we don’t play hard. … We weren’t willing to move the ball and attack the gaps.
“We didn’t even go to the foul line in the first half. That tells you all you need to know.”
Player of the game
Recee’ Caldwell, Texas Tech: As usual, she was the leading scorer for Texas Tech (21 points), but she also hit the big 3-pointer that put the Lady Raiders up 65-62 with 1:13 remaining in the game.
Why Texas Tech won
It didn’t relent. The Lady Raiders came out cold and out of sync. But, didn’t let it get to them. Texas Tech stayed the course and slowly chipped its way back into the game and relied on its go-to scorers to get the job done.
Up next for Tech
The Lady Raiders search for their first road win of the season Saturday when they visit Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma at 2 p.m. The game is part of a doubleheader with the men’s basketball teams.