AUSTIN — While the Texas Women’s Basketball team ran out to a comfortable lead with stifling defense, the Longhorns saw an 18-point lead get all the way down to five in the final minutes before putting Oklahoma State away in a 60-51 win.
Texas (11-2, 1-0 Big 12) put the clamps down on defense and kept the Cowgirls (9-3, 0-1) cold almost the entire game, but turnovers nearly doomed the Longhorns as they committed 25 TOs in the win.
With 7:28 left in the fourth quarter the ‘Horns were ahead 52-34 and looked to be on the way to a resounding victory, but that’s about the time the team fell asleep, according to Texas coach Karen Aston.
“We had better pressure on the ball and didn’t give them a lot in the first half, and then we flipped that completely in the second half and started letting them go where they wanted to go and gave up some transition buckets,” Aston said. “Just lack of attention to detail in the second half for sure.”
Point guard Sug Sutton led the Longhorns with 14 points to go with four rebounds and five assists as she continually tried to keep her teammates focused and composed down the stretch.
Danni Williams added 11 points and eight rebounds — including a strong board in traffic down the stretch to help stymie the comeback attempt — while Joyner Holmes finished with 10 points and five rebounds.
“I know I got on them when they were going on that run and we just have to change our mentality a little bit,” Sutton said. “Sometimes we get into the habit of we’re up by a lot and then we get to chill. It’s just gonna take some time but I think we were very composed when we came out there and handled it well.”
The defensive intensity and ability to make Oklahoma State uncomfortable, as well as the lack of panic during the comeback down the stretch gave Texas plenty of positives out of the win despite the close call.
“Well I didn't think we panicked, I think that’s a good thing. There’s been times before where we have (panicked), and we were pretty calm,” Aston said. “What got us in trouble in the first place was not keeping it simple. I have no idea why we decided to try and be a home run team tonight. I couldn’t be any more pleased with how we came outta the gates.”
Senior forward Mide Aborowa got her first start of the season and it paid off, with the communication on the defensive side fueling the ‘Horns running out to a big lead.
Aston gave her the nod because of her ability to control the game on the defensive side and her prowess in practice this season. Aborowa, who wound up with six points and six rebounds, said she “absolutely” wants Texas to be known as a defensive team to other Big 12 opponents, and feels a certain joy when her and her teammates get a stop.
“It’s fun when you see your teammates, like Joanne (Allen-Taylor) getting stops, everybody gets hype and we all get hype,” Aborowa said. “It shows we do like to play defense. We just don’t do it every time or as often as we should.”
Sutton beamed with a big smile when asked about Aborowa’s ability to change the game defensively.
“You can hear her in practice, you can hear her on defense, she’s a big part of this team and she brings energy in,” Sutton said, “and whenever we need it she’s gonna bring that energy in. She’s our energy player for real and she’s just a big part of this team.”
Aborowa was humbled by Sutton’s words and compliments.
“I really appreciate it, it’s nice to feel appreciated in the team, its like a community bc im not from here and its nice to have family, you know like a family i can depend on.
Jatarie White helped the ‘Horns control the paint and the boards, finishing with eight points and seven rebounds as Texas outrebounded Oklahoma State 47-36 in the win. Texas had 18 offensive rebounds as well and 10 steals as the Cowgirls never could get settled into a rhythm on either end.
“They’re a timing-type offensive team that thrives on screening action, timing in their screening action,” Aston said. “I thought we made them uncomfortable in the first half.”
The Cowgirls shot 19-for-61 in the game and shot just six free-throws to Texas’ 22, a credit to the ‘Horns activity on the boards according to Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell.
“You look at the game of basketball, the team that usually wins the rebound battle usually wins the ballgame, and the team that makes the fewest mistakes wins the ballgame,” Littell said. “We turned the ball over at a high rate, I know they did too, but they have the athletes and playmakers to overcome it and we don’t.”
The Texas defense was locked-in to start the game and held Oklahoma State without a basket for the first 6:05 of the game, with the Longhorns ahead 7-2 with 3:55 left in the first quarter.
Williams swished through a 3-pointer just ahead of the buzzer to give Texas a 14-4 lead after one, and she drained another 3 to start the second quarter to extend the lead.
Yet neither team could get a could grasp of the ball as both squads had double-digit turnovers just minutes into the second quarter.
After a 7-0 run by the Cowgirls to pull within 17-11, Aston called a timeout and the ‘Horns responded, going on a 16-5 run of their own to close out the second quarter on a layup by Sutton for a 33-16 lead at halftime.
“I think we just helped each other, we talked on defense, that was a big thing,” Sutton said. “Mide helped us a lot communicating down on the defensive end.”
Texas was ahead 48-29 after three quarters and plans to look back at what went so right early, and what went wrong in the final frame.
“That’s a lesson learned as far as letting a big 12 team hang around. i think that’s a little bit of a reflection of playing some nonconference games where you could kinda ok get a lead and coast and you cant do that in the big 12
Texas now moves on to play at West Virginia at 3 p.m. Sunday, and will air on ESPN2.
“Like (coach Aston) said we made too many home runs and that’s not what we do, we get out in transition but we don’t make home runs and forcing passes,” Sutton said. “So just making the simple play and that’s what we need to do going forward.”