Dug Deep: Thomas’ Big Night, fourth clutch quarter propels Lady Raiders to victory over Ball State



KATY, Texas – Dig deep. It’s more than a motto for the 2021-22 Texas Tech Lady Raiders. It is culture.

Never has this culture been more on display than in Friday night’s 71-67 win over the Ball State Cardinals Friday afternoon at the Merrell Center.

In the win, the Lady Raiders (5-0) trailed five points in the fourth on two occasions, but a career-high 18 points and 17 rebounds from the senior Taylah thomas and 15 West Texas transfer clutch points Lexy hightower turned out to be the difference. Five of Thomas’ 17 boards came from the attacking side of the field, while Hightower scored nine of his 15 in the final period of play.

Led by two points each from Thomas, Hightower and freshman Rhyle mckinney, the Lady Raiders took a 6-0 lead over Ball State (2-1) in the first quarter.

The Cardinals would respond, however, by using a 6-0 run to tie the game at six in the under-five media timeout (4:42) of the first period.

After the media hiatus, Tech scored nine of the next 12 to take a 15-9 lead at the end of the first period of play. Thomas finished the opening period with six points and seven boards.

The Lady Raiders used another 6-0 run to take a game-high 12 points (21-9) with 8:46 left in the second.

Powered by the ball three-way, Ball State used a 14-2 explosion over the next five minutes and 14 seconds to narrow Tech’s lead to 28-23 with 3:32 left in the second.

A final layup from Thomas capped a brief 7-3 push that gave the Lady Raiders a 35-26 lead at the break.

After the half-time break, Ball State got off to a quick start, scoring 12 of the first 16 to reduce Tech’s lead to just 39-38 with 6:47 left in the third. 12-4 explosion caused a head coach time-out Krista Gerlich.

The run reached to 15-4 at 5:59 when Sydney Freeman hit a three to give the Cardinals a 41-39 lead, their first in the competition.

Ball State’s lead reached 50-47 with 26 ticks remaining in the third before a McKinney free throw reduced BSU’s lead to 50-48 on the quarter-break.

Another Freeman triple gave Ball State a game-high 53-48 lead at 8:05 of the fourth.

Down 55-50 with 6:34 left in the game, the Lady Raiders used a pair of buckets in Ella Tofaeono to trigger an 8-3 surge that tied the game at 58 with 3:04 left in the fourth.

After a Ball State jumper put them back on top (60-58) at 2:44, Lexy hightower used a pair of free throws and a triple clutch to give the Lady Raiders a 65-60 advantage with 35 ticks remaining.

In the home stretch, Ball State twice reduced Tech’s lead to a single possession, but a line mark by Thomas and a pair of Hightowers gave Tech a 70-67 lead with nine seconds left. to play.

Needing a three to tie, Ball State and Freeman threw from behind the arc, but Thomas grabbed the rebound and hit a final free throw to propel the Lady Raiders to the 71-67 victory.

“Our kids showed a lot of courage and guts, and they decided to win at the end of the game. In the fourth quarter, we played really hard. We tried to focus on the defense, but Ball State can. really shoot the three. Taylah’s performance was exactly what a senior should do, especially when adversity strikes. She got up and played well, and I’m really proud of her daring performance. The only one bad thing for her is that she fights for the way she shot from the line, but she played a great game. And then Lexy did a great job playing in the big moments, which is what Lexy is really good, she’s played in a lot of big games in West Texas and you saw her ability to play in those moments tonight where she touched the big three and showed a lot of poise at the free throw line. You cannot ignore the fact that Saga [Ukkonen] came in after playing little and hit a big three in the fourth. ”

On zone defense in the fourth quarter:
“We decided we had to do something to try and slow down their 3 point shot. They got really hot on the 3 point line, but we ended up going small in the part that helped us defensively. allowed them to defend their training. better. We tried to mix up as much as we could in the second half because we couldn’t get them to stop hitting the 3-point shot. ”

“I knew we just had to stay together as a team tonight and that it would be a win and a team effort. Our ability to do that was the deciding factor in the game. We had a few clutch plays by a few. different people. Rhyle tied the game with a few free throws, Taylah had a million rebounds and Saga hit a huge three. We just needed to come together as a team. It’s a game-by-game process. Everyone learns to play together and trends. We will have Vivian [Gray] and Bré’Ambre [Scott] back here soon and really put it all together. It’s a game-by-game process. ”

“At the end of the third we were told we had to stay disciplined and go down and keep them. We had to do a better job bouncing back and stopping their 3 points. It has been a struggle for us for a lot of the game. So we tried to make sure they didn’t get a lot of three in the fourth quarter. We also had to do a better job of rebounding on the defensive end. One place. We were out of position at times, which didn’t help us. allowed to bounce back. This year we probably haven’t faced a team like his. We did a good job digging deep and staying together for the win. ”

• Thomas’ 17 rebounds are a season high. Thomas’ career high in rebounds is 21.
• The Lady Raiders have allowed a season-high 16 offensive rebounds.
• Overall, Tech still won the rebound margin 41-36.
• Thomas was an efficient 7-for-8 from the floor.
• Tech shot 28 for 54 (51.9 percent).
• The Lady Raiders outscored Ball State 42-20 in the paint on Friday.
• McKinney scored 11 points and had six career-high assists.
• She has now scored in double digits in all five games and has nine assists in the last two games.
• Ukkonen’s six points were also a career high.

The Lady Raiders continue to play in the Van Chancellor Classic on Saturday afternoon for a 1:30 p.m. clash with Old Dominion.



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