South Florida-Texas Tech Preview

The Associated PressMarch 22, 2013

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) -- - Texas Tech stumbled late in 2012-13 and enters the NCAA tournament on a season-worst three-game losing streak. Luckily for the Lady Red Raiders, they get to open play Saturday night on their own court.

Tenth-seeded South Florida takes on No. 7 seed Texas Tech, the host team that's appearing in its 20th NCAA tournament two decades after bringing the national title to West Texas.

The Lady Raiders are in the NCAA tournament for only the second time in seven seasons under coach Kristy Curry. They were tough to beat at home this season, going 14-3.

South Florida (21-10) is back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006.

Texas Tech's defense allowed opponents to make 40.2 percent of their field goals this season and there will be no day off against the Bulls. USF has a twin threat - sisters Andrea and Andrell Smith - who can put points on the board in a hurry (combined 30.3 per game).

Texas Tech guard Monique Smalls said facing the Smiths will remind her of Big 12 guards like Oklahoma State's Tiffany Bias or Oklahoma's Aaryn Ellenberger.

"They are very, very quick and they love to get out to push the ball," the senior point guard said. "They know where the other is. We've already faced that, so we're all ready to come out and face that Saturday."

The Bulls also have guard Inga Orekhova, third on the team with 12.2 points per game.

"We're going to go as far as these three guys right here are going to take us, and that's been our story all year," Bulls coach Jose Fernandez said of the Smiths and Orekhova. "We've got to make sure we take good shots. We love to shoot the three, look at our stats. That's a big part of it. We can't come down and take contested, quick shots."

Curry thinks the two teams are very similar in guard play but believes the game could come down to post play. For the Lady Raiders, that's Kelsi Baker (10.6 ppg) and Christine Hyde (9.5 ppg); Akila McDonald (3.7 ppg) and Alisia Jenkins (6.2 ppg) play in the post for the Bulls.

"Their post players are underrated," Curry said. "Seems like when they need a play made both those post players step up."

A strong finish to the regular season, including back-to-back wins over Top-25 teams Louisville and Syracuse, helped propel the Bulls onto the NCAA bubble. They put up another strong showing against No. 2 Notre Dame in the Big East tournament before falling 75-66 in the quarterfinals.