Lady Raiders Roll Into Sweet 16|
March 21, 2005
By STEPHEN HAWKINS
DALLAS (AP) - Alesha Robertson had forgotten what it felt like to be open so much, and she wanted the ball every possible chance for Texas Tech.
With Middle Tennessee focusing so much of its defensive attention inside, Robertson kept finding room outside. And she made the most of her chances, scoring 25 points in Texas Tech's 80-69 second-round win in the NCAA tournament Monday night.
"Alesha was open on the backside wing," coach Marsha Sharp said. "We tried to find ways to get the basketball to her before the defense could recover."
When she got free, Robertson waved her arms begging for the ball. The sophomore made 10-of-18 shots with five 3-pointers for her fifth 20-point game this season - her first in two months.
"Usually I haven't been seeing those open shots," said Robertson, a target for opposing defenses in the Big 12. "They did concentrate on post play. That gave me a lot of looks on the outside. One of my jobs is to put the ball in the hole."
Texas Tech (24-7), makes its 11th appearance in the NCAA round of 16 next weekend in Philadelphia against the winner of Tuesday night's Tennessee-Purdue game.
After pulling off a first-round upset for the second straight year, Middle Tennessee (24-9) missed becoming just the second No. 12 seed to win twice in the tournament. The Lady Raiders fell too far behind early and couldn't get Patrice Holmes the chance for another game-winning shot.
"This is harder to swallow than 12 months ago," coach Stephany Smith said. "We felt like we were prepared ... for whatever reason in the first half, we weren't as aggressive as we had been all season."
Despite the defensive focus inside, 6-foot-5 Texas Tech center Cisti Greenwalt had 19 points and six rebounds, and LaToya Davis had 11 points and 16 rebounds.
Greenwalt started the second half with consecutive putback baskets to give Texas Tech 50-29 lead. Middle Tennessee then scored 12 straight points, only for Robertson to hit a 3-pointer.
Robertson had 15 points in the first half, including consecutive 3s that pushed Tech ahead by 15. She made 5-of-11 from long range.
"We expended so much energy defending on the inside, they got a lot of open looks," Smith said. "As you could see by the impressive display of 3-point shots."
Greenwalt already had 12 points after she made all four of her shots in the first half - all in the paint - and hit four free throws for a 46-29 halftime lead.
"It was good for us to battle on the inside and the outside and play against physicalness," Greenwalt said. "We're going to have to get used to it down the road against bigger teams.
Holmes, who hit the game-winning jumper with 1.6 seconds left Saturday for the 60-58 upset of North Carolina State, scored 25 points. Krystle Horton had 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Chrissy Givens had 14 points for Middle Tennessee.
Twice in the Sun Belt Conference tournament, which Middle Tennessee won for the automatic NCAA bid, Holmes made game-winning shots.
With 39 seconds left Monday, Holmes hit an acrobatic left-handed hook shot from the free throw line to make it 77-69 - the closest MTSU got after halftime. But fittingly, Robertson responded with another 3-pointer.
Robertson hit the first shot of the game, then had a 3-pointer and a layup to push Texas Tech to a 9-2 lead. The other Tech basket in the first 3 minutes was Greenwalt's layup.
Texas Tech has won seven of its last nine games, the only losses coming against Big 12 regular season and tournament champion Baylor.