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December 30, 1996

Texas Tech Defeats Rice, 76-62

LUBBOCK, Texas - The No. 11-ranked Texas Tech Lady Raiders (8-2) played one of their finest halves of basketball all season in the first period of Tech's final non-conference game against the Rice Owls (5-4), then withstood an unusually poor second half to post a 76-62 win.

The duo of forward Alicia Thompson and freshman point guard Melinda Schmucker scored five points each in the first five minutes of the game, helping the Raiders to a 10-4 lead.

The Owls responded with a three-point basket by Gina Cafagna and a jumper by Angelica Smith to cut the lead to one. But, Rene Hanebutt hit the first of her four first-half three-point baskets to push the lead back to four.

Not to be outdone, Owl guard Jessica Garcia hit a three-pointer to cut the lead back to one with 12:21 to play in the first half.

Then the Owls commited a cardinal sin - they took the lead. A jumper by Debi Williams pushed the Owls past the Raiders 13-14, and seemed to pull the Raiders out of their scoring slumber.

Hanebutt ignited the run with a three-pointer. Thompson hit a three, then Hanebutt another. Thompson nailed a short jumper, then post Cara Gibbs scored a three-point play when she was fouled on a layin and connected on the free throw. Of course Thompson had to follow that with another three-pointer, and the Lady Raiders led 32-18 with 5:13 left in the first half.

They weren't done by a long shot. Keitha Dickerson scored four points off the bench, helping to propel the Lady Raiders to a 46-23 lead at halftime when her two-point jumper was good with 33 seconds left to play in the period.

The Lady Raiders shot a sizzling 66.7 percent (16-24) in the first half, including seven of nine from three-point range (77.8 percent.)

The Owls, meanwhile, connected at a 33.3 percent clip (9-27), but did out-rebound the Raiders 16 to 11, including eight offensive rebounds.

If the first half was picture perfect, the second half was a bad hair day. Poor ball handling and defensive breakdowns allowed the Owls to trim the deficit to 12 points with 7:21 left in the game when Garcia hit her fifth three-pointer of the game to make the score 60-48.

Thompson responded with two of her game-high 27 points, starting the Lady Raiders on a 16-7 run that made the score 76-55 with 2:08 left to play.

The Owls managed to tack on seven points to make the score more respectable, but the game was well in hand by the time Garcia tied the Rice school record with her sixth three-pointer when she nailed a trey with two seconds left on the clock. Garcia scored a team-high 20 points (including six of 10 three-point attempts) and was the only Rice player to score in double figures.

Eleven Owl players (all that played in the contest) scored at least two points.

Hanebutt recorded 20 points for the Lady Raiders, although only four of those were in the second half.

Schmucker scored only one point in the final 35 minutes of the game after a torrid start, but was a force on defense, recording seven steals.

The Lady Raiders were destroyed on the boards, 41-20, and gave up 21 offensive rebounds. Tech shot 62.8 percent for the game (57.9 percent in the second half) compared with 37.3 percent shooting for the Owls.

The Owls shot 37.5 percent from both the foul stripe (3-8) and three-point land (9-24).

"I think Rice has an awful good team. We knew we were going to have to play very well," said Tech head coach Marsha Sharp.

The Owls upset No. 20-ranked Arkansas 77-61 in Houston on Dec. 3. The Razorbacks went on to upset defending national-champion Tennessee later in December.

"We played two completely different halves," said Sharp. "The first half we played as well as we have all year. It's really important that we put together a complete game. No one in the dressing room is pleased with the way we played in the second half."

Still, Sharp gladly accepted the win, Tech's eighth in non-conference play, saying that she did not expect that her young team would win more than eight non-conference games.

The Lady Raiders take five days off before traveling to Waco to face the Baylor Bears Saturday in their first Big 12 Conference game. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. CST.

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