AUSTIN, Texas — With a performance that head coach Vic Schaefer said indicated clear improvement, the Texas women's basketball team used a strong second quarter to get back in the win column and defeat Oklahoma State, 64-53, Wednesday night at the Frank Erwin Center.
"We're still a long way from being anywhere close to where I want to be on defense," Schaefer said after the game. "But we made strides tonight. We made some improvement. If we can just keep doing that every day, every game, we'll be fine. But it doesn't come without work, it doesn't come without focus, it doesn't come without a change of heart."
The win moved Texas to 8-4 in Big 12 play, and 14-5 on the season. Texas is now fourth in the conference standings, just behind Oklahoma State, which fell to 14-6 overall, and 10-4 in games against conference opponents.
The term "historic night" has been used multiple times this season when describing one of center/forward Charli Collier's performances. But it seems fitting to label Collier's 28-point, 19-rebound, five-blocked shot effort against the Cowgirls as "historic," as the junior became the 47th player in program history to reach the 1,000-point mark during her career. After the game in which she reached the significant scoring milestone, it was Collier's defense that drew praise from her coach
"Her helpside defense was unbelievable," Schaefer said. "That's what I've been telling her: 'You got to really help your team, help your guards. Don't be afraid to leave your feet and block a shot.'"
Collier was one of three Longhorns to score in double figures: guards Celeste Taylor and Joanne Allen-Taylor scored 18 and 10 points, respectively.
The story of the game was in many ways more about how Texas improved quarter-by-quarter, rather than the way the Horns started.
Having struggled to shoot from the field in recent contests, the Longhorns began the second game of a two-game homestand shooting just 23.5 percent through the first quarter. The Cowgirls capitalized on the opportunity, with Kassidy De Lapp knocking down a free throw with 37 seconds to play in the opening quarter, giving Oklahoma State a 13-11 lead at the end of one period.
The second quarter was all Texas, as the Longhorns outscored their guests, 19-4.
"Held them to four points in the second quarter, y'all," Schaefer said. "What a tremendous effort."
Not only were the Longhorns stingy on the defensive end, but they also found their mark on the offensive end, going on an 11-0 scoring run to close out the quarter and holding the Cowgirls scoreless for the final 5:03 of the second quarter.
That 30-17 lead at the half proved to be too wide of a margin for the visitors to overcome, thanks in part to UT's dominance on the glass. The Horns out rebounded Oklahoma State, 46-29, and limited the Cowgirls to just four offensive rebounds on the night.
Near the end of the third quarter, it seemed that the message Schaefer had been preaching all season to this young team was finally heard. As the socially-distanced crowd of 990 fans stood on its feet, Texas played perhaps its best basketball of the night in the final few minutes of the third, during which the Horns closed out the quarter on a 9-2 run, and Texas forced three turnovers in the final five minutes.
"It's something I've been on them about," Schaefer said in regard to his team's hustle and effort. "We finally made a few plays with some energy and effort. Again, we still didn't get some loose balls, but I thought we played harder defensively."
In some ways, the victory was less about who the Longhorns beat, and more about who they face next. Heading into Sunday's road matchup at No. 7 Baylor, likely the toughest conference game of the season, Texas desperately needed a momentum boost, a win over someone, anyone, before heading to Waco. But Oklahoma State was not just "someone." The Cowgirls already demonstrated their abilities at UT's expense, having beaten Texas, 68-51, two weeks ago in Stillwater.
Following the game, Schaefer noted that his night was not done, because he planned to begin scouting the Bears as soon as he finished his postgame press conference.
"It'll probably be before midnight" when he and his staff would begin preparation for Baylor, Schaefer said. "I got my computer, I'll go home, change clothes, eat something, and I'll be on the the computer, rewatching this one first, then I'll be on Baylor until I fall asleep, sometime around 4 or 5 in the morning.
"Obviously, we got a big monster in front of us on Sunday."
Sunday's duel in Waco tips off at 4 p.m. (Central time) at the Ferrell Center. The game will be carried on ESPN2.