The lowest point of the season for the Texas Tech women's basketball team has been followed by a renewed confidence.
Since a 69-63 home loss to Jackson State, the Lady Raiders have rattled off four consecutive wins, including a pair last week at the Las Vegas Invitational. Tech coach Krista Gerlich said the Nov. 15 setback to the Tigers served as an early lesson. The team returned the next night with a comeback victory over Colorado that began the current streak.
"We looked at film and we talked about effort and just execution and that you have to show up and play hard every single game at this level," Gerlich said Tuesday. "That anybody can jump up there and get you, and Jackson State's a really good basketball team. They're gonna win a lot of games. … It was just a matter of our kids, getting their attention that they've got to step up and compete for four quarters. And I thought that they had a great turnaround against Colorado.
"I think they very easily could have, when we were down 16, could have thrown in the towel. They're not made like that. They're really strong, high-character kids. I think that they just did a great job of finding a way to win against Colorado, and they like the taste of victory better than they do defeat."
The Lady Raiders (5-1) will look to continue that positive play Thursday when Alabama State comes to United Supermarkets Arena. It's the first of eight consecutive home games throughout December.
Tech got it done the past two games — wins over Middle Tennessee State and Mercer — with underclassmen leading the scoring charge. Sophomore guard Rhyle McKinney posted a team-high 19 points against MTSU with a season-high four 3-pointers. Bailey Maupin and Jasmine Shavers, the current Big 12 Conference freshman of the week, hit career-best marks against Mercer with 27 and 21 points, respectively.
Shavers, a 5-foot-8 transfer from Mississippi State, got her first start against the Bears and shot 6 of 13 while adding seven rebounds and a steal. Gerlich said the redshirt freshman's improved defense has led to an increase in playing time, including a season-high 33 minutes in the win Saturday.
"She just played with a different level of intensity and really defended," Gerlich said. "She defended very, very well against Mercer against one of their best players. We challenged her with that, and I thought that she really stepped up. It was just fun to see her kind of blossom a little bit, and we want to challenge her to continue to be that spark for us and to just be consistent with her effort and with her focus on defense and offense."
Alabama State (0-4) will play its fifth consecutive high-major team Thursday. The Hornets are an athletic group, Gerlich said, with multiple shooters. Senior guard Ayana Emmanuel, one of two who averages double-digits, leads the team in scoring (11.8) after an 11-point outing Nov. 20 against Auburn. Freshman guard Samiya Steele went for a team-high 14 points in that contest.
Gerlich said Tech has to avoid a figurative "hangover" following a successful but tiring trip to Vegas.
"We've got a lot of things that we could use as adversity," Gerlich said, "but hopefully our kids will really focus and come together and play very well on Thursday, because we're going to need to to knock Alabama State off. They're looking for their first win, so they're playing nothing to lose. So sometimes that's really scary."
Alabama State at Texas Tech
Non-conference women's basketball
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: United Supermarkets Arena
Records: Alabama State 0-4; Texas Tech 5-1
Radio: 107.7 FM
Coverage: Follow @byStephenGarcia and @annierice_photo on Twitter for live updates, with postgame analysis and images at lubbockonline.com.
This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Texas Tech women's basketball starts home streak with Alabama State