AUSTIN, Texas — On a cold December night in Austin, the Texas women's basketball team was anything but cold when it came to shooting, as the Longhorns knocked down 50 percent of their shots in a 84-57 victory over Louisiana Tech Wednesday night at the Frank Erwin Center.
Paced once again by senior forward Charli Collier, who had 22 points but fouled out late, and Audrey Warren, who contributed 19, the Longhorns looked dominant, though Louisiana Tech gave them more of a fight throughout four quarters than SMU and North Texas previously had. That was represented in the rebounding battle, as the Lady Techsters actually outrebounded the Horns, still lacking depth in the post, 34-31.
However, UT's smothering full-court press defense worked like a charm, forcing 30 turnovers, which led to 27 points. Louisiana Tech managed to score just 10 off of its 17 forced turnovers, as Texas let hardly anything get past halfcourt without a challenge.
Despite that, Texas head coach Vic Schaefer said he was not particularly pleased with his squad's defensive performance after he watched his team improve to 3-0.
"We pride ourselves on playing hard, and I thought those (LaTech) kids played harder than we did tonight. That's a hard pill to swallow for me, but that's my responsibility, and I'll wear it."
"From a defensive standpoint, the things we try to do everyday in practice, the habits we create for ourselves and develop, and what we tried to do with the scouting report, we were awful."
His frustration was due less to the team's execution and more do to his players' effort, which he felt lacked greatly, especially when it came to the young and inexperienced freshmen.
"It's real common with an inexperienced and immature team to have a letdown," Schaefer said. "We were up 18 at the half, probably should have been up a little more, and then you come out and we outscored them six, then three in the fourth quarter."
The second half was not UT's brightest spot, but the team did look like a top-25 team, never allowing Louisiana Tech to take a lead, and finishing the first quarter up, 22-11. The next three quarters told much of the same story, with Texas extending its lead behind a slew of talented players, though it was not enough of a lead for Schaefer's liking, a lead that easily could be overcome against a stronger opponent like Texas A&M or Tennessee — both of which have matchups scheduled against the Horns.
One player with whom Scahefer was pleased was Warren. A hard-nosed player on both sides of the floor, Warren played a team-high 34 minutes, taking multiple charges and embodying the kind of hustle and effort Schaefer expects to see from his entire team by Sunday's game against No. 12 Texas A&M, a game that will tip off at 7:30 p.m. (Central time) and can be seen on ESPN.
"She's my kind of kid," Schaefer said postgame. "She's tough, physical, smart. She got 20 shots tonight and only made eight, and they were all good looks. We got to get her in the gym, and get her to where she can make 12 of those. The kid can make shots. She played well, played 30 minutes and is going to be one of those kids I'm probably going to need. I was pleased with her tonight."
There were multiple positives to be taken away from the victory. Heading into the contest, Schaefer noted that the Lady Techsters had recently put up 28 fast-break points in their recent victory over Grambling State. That was not the case Wednesday, as Texas held LaTech to just one fast-break point. In addition, Duke grad transfer Kyra Lambert made her Texas debut, scoring three points and playing 13 minutes.
"When you come into our locker room at the end of a game, I write positives on one side, negatives on the other — that was a positive," said Schaefer with a smile when talking about giving up just one fast break point. "That was certainly a plus."