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Thomas and Gray Shine, but Lady Raiders Drop Wild Big 12 Opener to OU

LUBBOCK, Texas – Despite a game-high 25 points and nine rebounds from Taylah Thomas and 21 points from All-American Vivian Gray, the Texas Tech Lady Raiders fell 97-91 to the Oklahoma Sooners Sunday afternoon at United Supermarkets Arena.

Both Thomas and Gray scored 12 points, in Texas Tech’s (7-5, 0-1 Big 12) 29-point fourth quarter. The Lady Raiders returned to game action for the first time since Dec. 21 after last week’s non-conference game against UIW was canceled due to health and safety protocols.

Thomas was an efficient 10-of-12 from the field and 5-of-8 from the line, while Gray was a strong 9-for-18 in her first game action since Dec. 12.

It was a game of runs Sunday, as Tech (7-5, 0-1 Big 12) overcame an early 19-2 third quarter Oklahoma run to trim a once 25-point margin (68-43) to just 72-62 at the end of three.

With the crowd of nearly 5,000 roaring and all of the momentum, the Lady Raiders looked poised to completely erase the deficit, but the Sooners (12-1, 1-0 Big 12) opened the final period on a pivotal 9-2 run to increase the once 10-point advantage all the way to back to 17 points.

After trailing 92-72 with just over three minutes to play, Tech scored 19 points over the final 2:57, but could get no closer than the final seven-point margin.

Despite being limited to just 19 minutes due to foul trouble, guard Bre’Amber Scott added 10 points and dished out three helpers in her first Tech start, while Ella Tofaeono added nine points and five rebounds off the bench in her first Big 12 game. The Texas A&M transfer was a perfect 3-of-3 from the field and is now shooting an impressive 72 percent (42-of-59) from the field this season.

Coming into the game averaging almost 90 points a game (89.1), Oklahoma was as good as advertised on the offensive end, as four different Sooners reached double figures led by 2021 Unanimous First Team All-Big 12 selection Madi Williams. Williams scored 24 points and hit 4-of-5 from distance. Coming into the game Sunday, Williams was just 10-of-35 (28.6 percent) from 3-point range.

HOW IT HAPPENED:
Behind four quick points from Gray and a layup from Thomas, the Lady Raiders grabbed an early 9-8 lead with 6:37 to play in the opening period.

Led by Robertson and Williams, the Sooners would respond over the remainder of the period, using an and-one from Liz Scott to cap a 21-8 run. The outburst gave Oklahoma a 29-17 lead at the end of one.

Needing a response, Tech used a layup from Tofaeono to spark a 12-4 run over the first three minutes of the second. The run cut the Oklahoma lead from 29-17 to just 33-29 with 7:12 to play.

As they did all afternoon, OU answered Tech’s run, scoring 13 of the next 20 to take a 46-36 lead with 1:41 left in the period.

Another layup from Tofaeono and an and-one from Thomas cut the Oklahoma lead in half at the break, as Tech trailed just 46-41 after 20 minutes.

In the second period, the Lady Raiders outscored OU 24-17 and held the Sooners to just five made field goals on 29 percent shooting.

After the break, Oklahoma again went on a scoring barrage, using four triples to jumpstart a 19-2 run that gave the visitors a 68-43 lead with 5:36 to play in the third.

The Lady Raiders would respond, as Tech held the potent OU attack to just four points over the final 5:36 of the third.

The increased defensive success combined with back-to-back clutch triples from Lexy Hightower and Rhyle McKinney allowed Tech to cut the once 25-point deficit to just 72-62 after three. Hightower finished eight points on the final afternoon.

In the fourth, Oklahoma used 20-10 run to increase its lead back up to 92-72 with just over three minutes to play.

After scoring just 10 points over the first seven minutes, the Lady Raiders were able to drop 19 of the final 24, before ultimately falling 97-91.

COACH SPEAK (HC Krista Gerlich):
“I hope that was an exciting game for our fans to watch. Whenever teams score that many points it’s usually exciting to watch. As a coach, it was not that exciting to play against, because we needed to be able to get stops better than we did today. OU is a really good offensive team, and we knew that coming into the game. We have to give them credit for the way they shot the ball and were able to dictate the style of the game. We battled hard, and there were definitely moments where we could have given up, but we didn’t. We just had too many dry spells combined with not being able to get stops for us to win the game. [Against an opponent like Oklahoma] we need to be able to get more stops to stay in the game better than we did tonight. I’m proud of the way Taylah and Vivian stepped up on a big stage and played really hard, and we’re going to have to continue to battle to get wins in the Big 12.”

On what her team needed to do to stop Oklahoma during its runs:
“It’s really hard to control momentum. You must be able to make a big stop, a big play or get a big bucket. It’s one of those things where you need to keep fighting. You can’t keep getting beat the same way. If the other team is scoring the ball the same way [time after time] we need to make an adjustment defensively that allows us to get a stop. Offensively we need to execute better and take better care of the basketball. We also need to understand our scout and be determined to get buckets to either stop the other teams’ momentum or build our own momentum.”

FORWARD VIVIAN GRAY:
“Today we learned this team continues to fight. We were down by over 20 points [in the third] and got it back to within a point where we could come back. So, that’s one positive to take out of today’s game. More importantly, I think we really learned that we need to play better defense. Oklahoma scoring 97 points on our home court is unacceptable.”

INSIDE THE BOX SCORE:
• Thomas recorded her first career 20-point game. Her previous career-high was 18 points against Ball State.
• Gray’s 20-point game was the 49th of her career overall, and the 32nd game with at least 20 points against a Big 12 opponent.
• Gray and Thomas are the first set of teammates to score over 20 points in the same game since Mar. 1, 2021.
• The Lady Raiders set new season highs in the following categories: Points (91), field goals made (35), assists (21) and points scored in a quarter (29, fourth quarter).
• The Lady Raiders scored 90 points for the first time this season, and for the first time since Feb. 20, 2021.
• In that game, Tech scored 99 points in a 99-98 victory over Kansas.
• Tech falls to 4-1 this season when shooting at least 50 percent.
• Sunday was the first time all season that Tech scored over 60 points and lost. The Lady Raiders were previously 7-0 when scoring over 60.
• Tech outscored OU 44-34 in the paint.
• After missing Tech’s Florida finale and leaving the game against Ole Miss due to injury, Khadija Faye returned Sunday.

UP NEXT:
The Lady Raiders hit the road for the first time in Big 12 play when they travel to No. 12 Texas Wednesday. Tip-off from Austin is set for 7 p.m. on the Longhorn Network. The matchup against Texas will be Tech’s fourth straight against a team with just one loss (Ole Miss, LSU and OU).

–TECH–

Release provided by Andrew Stern  Texas Tech Athletics



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