Old-time rivalry gets latest chapter Sunday

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas vs. Texas Tech is as intense of a rivalry as there is in women's college basketball. It's a bragging rights battle for supremacy in the Big 12.

It runs from a pair of Hall of Fame coaches down to rosters full of players who competed with and against each other in high school.

It's Austin, with its live-music-capital-of-the-world sense of cool vs. Lubbock and its wind-swept West Texas plains sense of isolation.

It's also on Super Bowl Sunday. When most of the sporting world will be watching the day-long buildup to the year's biggest sporting event, Texas (18-2, 6-1 Big 12) hosts Texas Tech (18-2, 4-2) in their first meeting this season.

Texas officials say ticket sales have already topped 10,000, which would make it the biggest home crowd for the UT women since 10,858 watched the Longhorns play Tennessee in 2000.

"This is always a good game,'' said Texas junior forward Heather Schreiber. "For everybody involved, it's one of our
biggest games of the year.''

The rivalry is woven through the entire history of the two programs, from the days of the old Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women to their current position as a pair of NCAA powerhouses.

It starts with the two coaches, Texas' Jody Conradt and Texas Tech's Marsha Sharp, who have competed on the court and chased the same recruits off it for decades. Both are members of the women's basketball hall of fame.

Conradt is one of only two women's coaches with more than 800 victories and Sharp passed the 500-win mark last season. Conradt got to twist the knife in her old rival last season when win No. 800 came with a 69-58 over the Lady Raiders last season in Austin.

Both coaches have a national title. Condradt won hers in 1986. Sharp's came in 1993 when Sheryl Swoopes, who originally signed with Texas but never played a game in Austin before transferring out, led the Lady Raiders to their only national championship.

Texas holds a 50-18 lead in the series. The Longhorns won the first 37 games before Tech finally stopped the streak in 1991, as the Lady Raiders emerged as a women's basketball power.

Texas has dominated again recently, winning the last three games, including a 67-57 victory in the Big 12 tournament
championship game.

Texas Tech goes into the game trying to regain its footing after the sudden departure of senior leader Jia Perkins, who was lost for the season two weeks ago with an undisclosed medical condition. The Lady Raiders are 3-1 since she left, with an 88-87 loss to an Oklahoma State team Tech beat by 63 points on Jan. 10.

"There's nothing we can do about the Perkins situation but decide how it's going to affect us the rest of the year,'' Sharp
said. "I think this group has a lot of character about them and I think they'll respond to that.''

Texas senior center Stacy Stephens said the Longhorns still have a healthy respect for their rival.

"They're still a good team,'' Stephens said. ``I know I won't be taking them any lighter.''