The back half of the season will be important for interim coach Shimmy Gray-Miller whether she believes she's showcasing her coaching abilities for another school or if she thinks she's auditioning for the Lady Raiders head coaching gig on a more permanent basis.
Twenty days into her stint guiding the Texas Tech women's team, it hasn't gone as bad as fans might have thought after athletics director Kirby Hocutt pulled the plug on Candi Whitaker just two games into Big 12 Conference play.
The team won its first game under Gray-Miller, defeating Kansas 68-56 earlier in week after suffering four straight double-digit losses.
The competition ramps up in a 3 p.m. Saturday home game against No. 9 Texas.
The Lady Raiders (7-11 overall, 1-6 in the Big 12), who have not taken a game against the Longhorns since the 2012-2013 season, have an opportunity to earn a signature win against an in-state and conference rival.
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"Seeing them pounding on the board and writing 'Process' on the board, I didn't see any of that until I watched the video," said Gray-Miller, referring to a highlight video of Wednesday's road win against Kansas. "It was like 18 days to that point. Everything happened, 18 days and then we play Kansas and beat Kansas. It was 18 days to a lifetime memory."
Texas Tech won in the midweek, but Texas is coming off a four-point Monday loss to No. 1 Connecticut.
So, Gray-Miller hardened on the win from a technical standpoint. The then-winless-in-conference Lady Raiders beat a team just two games ahead of it in the standings.
The Longhorns didn't get the win against UConn in Austin, but they won the rebounding column by six and committed four less turnovers. UConn won because it shot 49 percent from the floor, and that makes Texas' rebounding win even more impressive.
Yet, Texas Tech had a plus-14 rebound margin against Kansas and the primary four posts, Gray-Miller's positional group, played arguably their best game of the season. Erin DeGrate came off the bench and scored 12 points in 10 minutes behind starting center Jada Terry's 16 points.
DeGrate's quick burst started with a put back near halftime.
"That's Lady Raider basketball," Gray-Miller said. "I think we talked about this at my first press conference. We looked at the things that we already do well. One of the things we've done well all year is rebound. We have three of the best rebounding post players in the conference. We already do that well, so we said we're just going to sell out for rebounds. That's the way we can get more points."
Texas, which only has a two-point loss to TCU in Fort Worth within the league, has four starters that average double digits.
Alecia Sutton, a St. Louis native who Gray-Miller was aware of as head coach of the Billikens, comes off the bench for the Longhorns. She was the sixth-ranked prospect in the espnW Hoop Gurlz top 100 back in 2016 and is involved with the USA Basketball player development program as it gears up for the 2020 Olympic Games.
The Jayhawks, who had a two-point halftime lead Jan. 15, went down by 12 in the second half and pushed to within five points before going down against a shooting resurgence against the Longhorns earlier in the Big 12 schedule.
"What it does is shows anyone in this league is beatable on any given night," Gray-Miller said. "Kansas lost, but Kansas gave them everything they could. Kansas played really, really hard against Texas, and that's our game plan. We want to play harder than Texas. We want to be first on the floor and first up. If we can do those things -- and if we can play with the same energy, effort and attitude that we had four for quarters against Kansas -- we give ourselves a chance to win."
This article is written by Mike Graham from Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Texas and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.