LAWRENCE, Kansas — Although the Texas women's basketball team was on the road, the Horns did not look out of place Wednesday in Allen Fieldhouse, as they defeated Kansas, 61-52.
The victory improved the Longhorns to 16-6 overall and 10-5 in Big 12 play, and most importantly, allowed them to stay in front of 11-6 Iowa State, which beat West Virginia Wednesday, for fourth place in the Big 12. Kansas fell to 7-14 overall, and just 3-12 in games against conference opponents.
Texas sits 3.5 games out of first place, which is currently held by No. 7 Baylor, with three games remaining on the regular-season schedule. But four games were postponed because of COVID-19 concerns or weather. The conference rescheduled postponed men's basketball games; no similar announcement has yet been made regarding women's games.
"First of all, I'm really proud of my team," Texas head coach Vic Schaefer said following the victory. "I thought we were really special tonight for most of the game defensively. When you think about it, [Kansas] is a team that scored 98 and 82 in their previous two games. They scored 22 of their 52 points (Wednesday) in the fourth quarter. Man, we were really special tonight on that end of the floor."
The Longhorns started aggressively, hitting their first three shots and jumping out to a 7-0 lead at the 7:13 mark of the first quarter. The Jayhawks broke the UT run on a layup by Zakiyah Franklin, but could not keep up with the Horns' fast-paced style of play. In fact, Texas' pressing defense held KU to just two field goals in the entire first quarter, after which the Longhorns held a 17-5 advantage.
"I think we're getting better," Schaefer said of his team's defense. "We've worked really hard to get better defensively, we've spent a lot of time on it. I think they've finally taken ownership. They've done a great job of staying focused. I can see us getting better. Again, I attribute a lot of that to our guards being able to guard one-one-one better."
The momentum carried Texas throughout the second quarter, with the Horns relying on the post duo of Charli Collier and Lauren Ebo as the lead was extended to 22-9. Kansas found its rhythm with about five minutes remaining in the corner, and managed to keep UT's lead to 10, at 30-20, at halftime.
But coming out of the locker room, Texas stuck to its gameplan, starting with a pair of mid-range jumpers by Collier, who scored 23 points and pulled down 14 rebounds for her 16th double-double of the season.
The Longhorns extended their advantage in the third quarter to as many as 20 points with 3:37 left on a three-pointer from guard Audrey Warren, and by the beginning fourth quarter, it seemed that the Horns had secured the win. Texas guard Ashley Chevalier, who has emerged as a consistent point guard off the bench, led off the fourth by going coast to coast for a fast-break layup, and later knocked down a long three with 2:45 to go in the contest.
"She played 28 minutes, and I couldn't get her off the floor," Schaefer of Chevalier. "At the end of the day, she's playing better than just about every other guard that I have. She does what it takes to win."
Chevalier finished with a respectable seven points, four assists and zero turnovers in 28 minutes, but it was Warren who really embodied the Longhorns' aggressive attitude. She had 12 points and 10 rebounds, her first double-double of the season, but more than that, played all but three minutes of the game, and exemplified the level of effort Schaefer expects from his players.
"She's down there competing and battling every step of the way," said Schafer of Warren. "She had a big driving layup there in the first half, where I think [Kansas] had cut it to eight, and she goes from right to left and lays it in on the backside. It was a heck of a play. That is a kid that really attacks and knows what 'attack' means."
Texas will return home to host Oklahoma, which is 9-10 overall and 6-8 in Big 12 games, at 1 p.m. Saturday. The game will be carried on Longhorn Network.
"We had a knock-down, drag out, with them up there," said Schaefer of the Sooners. "I fully expect that we're going to have to play really well on Saturday."