by Angela SnyderDaily Cougar Staff
An interesting matchup can be expected Saturday at 7 p.m. in Hofheinz Pavilion when the Houston Lady Cougars take on No. 8 Texas Tech.
The Lady Raiders come into the game with a record of 3-0 in the Southwest Conference (13-2 overall).
However, the Cougars (9-6, 2-1 in the SWC) will not go down without a fight. They have lost just one home game, 86-72 to Washington State Dec. 29.
Last season, the Raiders' frontline was vital in winning both regular-season meetings (96-65 at Lubbock and 78-76 at Hofheinz) with the Cougars.
However, two of the Raiders' key starters in that frontcourt, Connie Robinson and Tabitha Truesdale, graduated last season. But 5-10 senior center Melinda White is making a valiant effort to help fill the void. White led the team in field-goal percentage in SWC contests during her sophomore year (68 percent). She followed it up as a junior last year by shooting 50.7 percent, and making the Dr Pepper Postseason Classic all-tournament team in Dallas. White scored a career-high 20 points in the tourney's second round against the Cougars.
"Melinda surprised us a little last year," said Houston coach Jessie Kenlaw. " But I think we are going to be better prepared for her this time around."
Through the Raiders' first 15 games this season, White is averaging 6.2 points, 5.7 boards and shooting 58.6 percent.
And don't forget 6-1 senior post Michi Atkins, whose superior overall skill plagued teams across the country last season. In 34 games last season, Atkins averaged 17.5 points per outing (7.2 rebounds and 52 percent shooting), helping Tech get to within one game of the NCAA Women's Final Four.
"Michi has always done a good job against us," Kenlaw said. "And it's important that we do a good job defending her and the rest of Tech's frontcourt players in the paint."
Atkins is having an even better season this year, scoring 21 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, while shooting 56 percent from the floor.
This year, the Cougars have some talent of their own in junior forward Pat Luckey, who's averaging more than 30 points per game in her last seven outings.
Add ferocious rebounders, sophomore forward Jennifer Jones and senior center Rosheda Hopson (12.7 rebounds a game combined) to that, and a picture emerges of a team that also has its bases covered on the frontline.