AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas women's basketball team played a solid first half, but it was not enough to hold back No. 24 West Virginia, as the Longhorns fell to the Mountaineers 81-75, Saturday evening at the Frank Erwin Center.
The loss drops Texas to 13-5 overall, and more importantly, 7-4 in conference play, while West Virginia completed the season sweep of the Longhorns and improved to 15-2 overall and 9-2 against Big 12 teams.
"I've got to do better," frustrated Texas head coach Vic Schaefer said after the loss. "At the end of the day, it falls on me."
The first quarter included four lead changes, and West Virginia closed out the first 10 minutes of play on a 9-6 scoring run, taking a 18-11 lead as the second period of play got underway.
Texas battled back in the second quarter, outscoring WVU, 29-21, to hold a narrow 40-39 lead in to halftime. The Horns' surge can be attributed in large part to vastly improved shooting: UT shot just 38 percent from the field in the first quarter, but made 65 percent of its shots, going 4-of-6 from three-point range, in the second.
All season, Texas has struggled in the third quarter, and Saturday was no different, as West Virginia outscored the Longhorns, 24-18, in the third. The Mountaineers broke away with six minutes left in the third, breaking a 49-49 tie as Kysre Gondrezick knocked down a shot from inside the paint, giving West Virginia a 51-49 lead.
Texas center Charli Collier was limited in her shot production in the second half, and did not take a shot for the final 16 minutes of the game, after which West Virginia never trailed.
Texas cut the deficit to a single point more than once in the fourth, including at the 4:54 mark on a three from Joanne Allen-Taylor, and stayed in the game for the majority of the final 10 minutes of play. Lauren Ebo connected on a short-range jumper with 2:47 left to make it a one-possession game, with West Virginia in front, 74-72. While Texas had several key stops on defense in the final minutes, the Horns went 0-of-5 shooting in the final 2:47, as the Mountaineers sealed the victory.
"We played really hard at times," Schaefer said. "I'm frustrated and disappointed in some of the mental mistakes we make, in some of the 'I' plays we try to make. That's what I call not being fundamentally sound. If somebody is faster and quicker than you off the bounce, then keep them in front. That's not playing hard to foul and it's not playing hard to let somebody drive by you and have a layup. We should be smarter than that."
Leading Texas offensively was Collier, who still managed to score 21 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots, despite a weak second-half showing.
The loss snapped UT's seven-game home winning streak, and seemed to weaken the team's spirits. Following the game, Schaefer was clearly disappointed, as were Ebo and Collier as they spoke with the media after the loss.
"I'm disappointed that we didn't get the win because we played so well in the first half," Collier said. "But we got to bounce back. We're going to bounce back."
Texas will have an opportunity to get back in the win column Wednesday, when Oklahoma State comes to the Forty Acres for a 7 p.m. (Central time) game that will be carried on Longhorn Network.