Five games into Big 12 play and the Longhorns have given themselves a good, hard look in the mirror before facing their next opponent on the road tonight, the Texas Tech Lady Raiders.
Coach Gail Goestenkors understands that a little reflection is important for a team that must learn to overcome itself before overcoming its opponents. She said that her squad is always in positions to win, but it has allowed teams to steal games by way of a lack of focus.
When asked what her letter grade for the team would be, Goestenkors gave them a B- because they have yet to put together a complete game.
“We have got to learn to finish,” Goestenkors said. “When we get teams down by nine or 11 or 14, it’s then finding that way to put them away and not let them back in the game.”
The Longhorns (12-7, 1-4) are coming off a sloppy 63-56 victory over Oklahoma State, their first conference win of the season. They went through stretches of huge leads that they eventually squandered and then re-established.
Today they take their show on the road to one of the Big 12’s most intimidating places to play women’s basketball: Lubbock.
Freshman guard Chelsea Bass, who gives Texas a C+ thus far, said getting the initial win was something that came as a bit of relief for the Texas players who desperately need momentum.
“It felt so good to beat Oklahoma State, and I think it will push us a little bit more since we really want to get another one,” Bass said. “I just want to do the best I can and be there for my teammates because I know it’s a really tough place to play.”
The Lady Raiders (16-3, 3-2) are indeed a force to be reckoned with when playing on their home court. They are 11-0 at the United Spirit Arena, led by junior Kierra Mallard, their top scorer. Texas Tech has three players averaging double digits in conference play.
Goestenkors expects the Lady Raiders to come out hungry.
“We know it’s going to be a battle,” she said. “They gave Baylor a heck of a run the other night, so I’m sure they have a lot of confidence.”
Statistically, Texas boasts a high-scoring counterattack. All but two of Texas’ 12 wins this season have been by double-digit margins, and the Longhorns are averaging around 82 points a game. The Lady Raiders average nearly 67 points per game.
So with the Longhorns’ scoring statistics taking ranks, why are the Lady Raiders off to such a hot start as compared with Texas’ cold one?
Bass says it is a matter of winning the battle of the boards.
“They are a great rebounding team and that’s something we struggle with,” Bass said. “We have to force them out of the paint and grab some rebounds of our own if we want to win.”
Texas Tech snags nearly 10 more rebounds than its opponents as compared with Texas’ four rebound advantage.
Junior guard Ashleigh Fontenette said the Texas Tech matchup will be a good barometer for how well the rest of the season shapes up.
“We are turning our ship around, but we can’t get ahead of ourselves,” Fontenette said. “Texas Tech is a great team and it’s not going to be easy. This game is really important.”
Fontenette agrees more with Goestenkors that the team is playing at around a B grade level. But Bass, Fontenette and Goestenkors said they see in their team a potential for a “front-of-the-class” caliber squad.
“Its coming,” Bass said. “An A+ game is on the way.”