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Mission Accomplished

Texas Tech heads Big 12 teams in NCAA Tournament

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Posted: Monday March 08, 1999 04:21 PM

  Rene Hanebutt (left) and Angie Braziel hoist the Big 12 Tournament trophy on behalf of Texas Tech. AP

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) -- After a season of last-second victories and daring escapes, the Big 12 Women's Basketball Tournament was supposed to be a proving ground for Texas Tech -- a place for the Lady Raiders to make a statement before chasing their national championship aspirations.

Mission accomplished.

The No. 9 Lady Raiders dominated No. 21 Iowa State in the second half to win 73-59, claiming their second consecutive Big 12 tournament championship and secure an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

"We came out and proved we are the best team in the Big 12 without a doubt," said Renee Hanebutt, who nailed three 3-pointers in the second half and finished with 14 points. "I don't think we got the respect we deserved this week from other Big 12 schools or from Kansas City in general. I think we showed a lot of people that we're the best team in the Big 12 and we have been for two years."

The Lady Raiders (28-3) will face Stephen F. Austin (17-11) in the first round. Stephen F. Austin won the Southland Conference tournament final by beating Northwestern State 90-77 Saturday.

Four other Big 12 teams were invited to the NCAA tournament including Iowa State, which will face Santa Clara; Texas, which will face Auburn; Kansas, which will face Marquette and Nebraska, which will face Kentucky.

Tech received the highest seeding, capturing a second seed in the Midwest region.

Coach Marsha Sharp said the team has clearly elevated its level of play through the latter half of the season.

"This is the way you want to be playing going into the NCAA tournament," Sharp said after Saturday night's game. "We're not playing perfect basketball, but we're fighting hard every night and we aren't backing down. That's the kind of playing that can get you far into the [NCAA] tournament."

Angie Braziel, held scoreless in the first half, scored 19 points in the second half and grabbed 10 rebounds as the Lady Raiders came back from a five-point halftime deficit against Iowa State.

Tech also turned in a convincing 77-59 victory over Nebraska and a 74-55 victory over Kansas State in the Big 12 tournament.

Playing Texas Tech became a substantially different experience as the season has progressed.

The Lady Raiders were less than impressive out of the gate, losing to then-No. 15 Old Dominion 85-64 in their third game. Tech then barely held off Southern Methodist and Stanford, winning both games by fewer than seven points with fourth-quarter rallies.

The team began to evolve into a much more fierce competitor around mid-season with a 71-47 brutalizing of then-No. 14 Iowa State.

Braziel -- the team's star -- has been consistent, averaging 21 points and 8.9 rebounds for most of the season.

But Keitha Dickerson began assuming more of the rebounding responsibilities, averaging eight. Hanebutt, who started the season quietly averaging just under 10 points after the first six games, increased her output to 16 points per game. Her improvement showed in Tech's tournament victory over Kansas State Wednesday. Hanebutt scored 21 of her 26 points on 7-for-13 shooting from 3-point range.

Julie Lake, who averaged 8.5 points this season, has proven that she can take the reigns when necessary. Against the Cyclones she led Texas Tech with four 3-pointers and 20 points.

"We've really come to a better understanding of what we have to do to win," Sharp said. "When that happens, you're going to play better."

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