Lubbock Christian University basketball players finish up the fall-semester final exam period on Thursday afternoon. That shouldn’t be a major issue for the Lady Chaparrals, given they were recognized for a 3.72 team grade-point average for last school year.
Right after finals comes the hard stuff.
LCU (9-1) hosts Southwestern Oklahoma State (8-0) at 6 p.m. Thursday in a top-25 matchup at the Rip Griffin Center. LCU is ranked No. 5 and No. 6 in two major NCAA Division II polls, and SWOSU is No. 14 and No. 19. The Lady Chaparrals’ only loss was a 79-66 decision to defending national champion Ashland, which is on a 45-game winning streak and averages 93 points a game.
“We played Ashland,” LCU coach Steve Gomez said, “and this will be that type of opponent — someone that’s really, really good. Defensively, they’re not the same, but offensively they can score pretty similar to Ashland.”
Southwestern Oklahoma State trounced LCU 90-63 last Dec. 10 in Weatherford, Oklahoma. The Lady Bulldogs finished 20-10 and have back their top three scorers. Reigning Great American Conference player of the year Hailey Tucker is averaging 21.6 points per game, Tyra Aska 16.1 and Hayden Priddy 15.5.
Tucker’s a 6-foot-2 junior guard. Priddy, a 5-9 junior, was first-team all-GAC. Aska, a 5-8 sophomore and niece of former NFL running back Joe Aska, was all-GAC honorable mention.
Bethany Franks, a 5-11 freshman, averages 8.6 points and 7.6 rebounds.
“Really, they have a lot of good shooters, but also good drivers,” Gomez said. “So they’re not really just a post-up team. They score inside with a lot of it created on some spacing out and driving to the basket.”
LCU started Heartland Conference play Saturday, beating Arkansas-Fort Smith 67-62 in a matchup of a teams picked to finish 1-2 in the conference. Thursday’s game is the first of three more non-conference games before the Lady Chaps resume conference play on Jan. 4 against Texas A&M International.
Last year, Tucker scored 26 points, Priddy 22 and SWOSU made an LCU opponent record 15 3-point goals in routing the Lady Chaps. It made the Lady Chaps 4-6 at the time, their worst 10-game start since the 1992-93 season. LCU got back on track and finished 19-11.
Heartland Conference player of the year Tess Bruffey started slow last season, missing two early games with a concussion. She played in the SWOSU game, but didn’t regain her usual form until the season progressed.
Bruffey’s averaging team highs of 14.0 points and 9.0 rebounds this season, followed by center Maddi Chitsey (11.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and guard Caitlyn Cunyus (9.7 ppg).
The Lady Chaps likely will need their best effort.
“This is a really good team,” Gomez said of SWOSU. “It’s the type of team that I would think is a postseason, strong team in their region as the year goes on.”