One year ago, Texas Tech might not have been able to pull out a win like it did against UCLA Tuesday night at United Spirit Arena.
Tech quickly fell behind 27-13 with 8:26 to go in the first half after a 15-0 surge by the Bruins.
A year ago, that might have done the Lady Raiders in.
“Looking back on what we went through — absolutely not,” head coach Kristy Curry said. “As a coach, you want them to do that. But you just saw the room for improvement. We’ve just improved so much. No matter how much we’ve been saying it and it sounds like coach-speak, you can’t just see it in practice. You have to have some of those experiences in a game.”
Tech outscored UCLA 38-14 over the next 13 minutes and held the Bruins without a field goal in the final four minutes of the game to win 72-62 in front of maybe the most energetic home crowd (10,137) all season.
“(The crowd) played a huge part,” said forward Jordan Murphree, who finished with 14 points. “When we went down by 13 and started to come back you could hear them yelling, so it helped to have a lot more people out and hopefully we’ll see the same thing against Arkansas.”
Maria Moore was the catalyst for Tech (8-4), controlling the offense with better passing than she did a year ago. The senior guard led all scorers, tying her career highs for points (18), assists (nine) and rebounds (six).
Dominic Seals, who traded in her No. 41 jersey for No. 50 midway through the second half after suffering a bloody nose, stayed poised while freshman Kierra Mallard was saddled with four fouls and helped Tech outscore UCLA 32-16 in the paint.
Seals had 14 points, and Mallard scored 11 to join Murphree, Moore and Ashlee Roberson (10 points) in double figures.
Tech built as much as an 11-point lead with less than 16 minutes to go as UCLA got within six points or less five times through the rest of the game but never saw another tie or lead after halftime.
The Bruins (9-2) had 25 turnovers — 14 in the second half.
“The game is about runs,” UCLA head coach Nikki Caldwell said. “We didn’t answer theirs when they came at us and it crippled our lead. Then we turned the ball over. … Against a quality team like Texas Tech, you’re going to have to take care of the basketball and do the little things, and we failed in that area.”
Tech scored 26 points off the Bruins’ mishaps.
UCLA hit three 3-pointers during the early 15-0 run as Tech turned the ball over four times and went 1 of 5 from the field.
But then everything turned on UCLA.
The Lady Raiders outscored the Bruins 20-6 for the remainder of the opening half for a 33-33 tie at halftime.
Tilmila Martin, who has been an aggressive player defensively for Curry this season, entered the game after the run by UCLA and helped push Tech on a 10-0 run to get within four points with less than six minutes to play.
The Bruins again pulled out to a five-point lead after their sixth trey of the half before Tech scored six points in the final 1:14 before the break.
“I thought that said a lot about us,” Curry said. “… I thought there was a definite will about them and that they were not going to lose in this building.”
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