AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas women's basketball team battled back from an early deficit to defeat Kansas State, 59-47, Sunday at the Frank Erwin Center, improving to 6-0 in games following a loss.
The Horns were humiliated at the hands of seventh-ranked Baylor, and temporarily stranded in Waco, and won Sunday despite playing on just two days of practice in a week that tested the entire team emotionally, due to the severe winter weather that swept through Austin and the Lone Star State earlier in the week.
"I'm telling you, it's been a trying week," Texas head coach Vic Schaefer said, "with what our student-athletes have been through this past week, and again, we don't have any idea what their families are going through, especially Texas kids. They've got families who are struggling, too. It's a real challenge. They're over there in their dorm room stuck by themselves because of Covid. It's just a bad deal over there."
Following the contest, an elated Schaefer praised his team, though he also noted the obvious "rust" that his squad showed in the early goings. That rust was completely visible in the way the Longhorns started the game, falling behind 17-8 as the first quarter drew to a close. Kansas State entered the game dead last in the Big 12 standings, but played like the favorite in the matchup early on, shooting 50 percent from the field compared to Texas' miserable 14.3 percent.
"We just didn't seem like we were ready to play," Schaefer said solemnly when talking about the first quarter."
Whatever it was that plagued Texas early, the Horns got it out of their system, because they looked like an entirely different team in the second quarter, going on a 12-4 scoring run to begin the period, highlighted by threes from guards Kyra Lambert and Celeste Taylor on consecutive possessions. After UT erased an 11-point deficit throughout the second, Taylor got an open layup, giving Texas its first lead of the game, 26-25, with 2:46 to play. K-State had no answer and was held scoreless for the final 3:27 of the first half.
"Proud of my kids, proud of my team," Schaefer said. "[We] didn't practice much last week, and obviously we looked about like that."
"We hadn't played any basketball like that, except the two days of practice," center Charli Collier said, "so there was a lot of rust."
The one player who did not seem to struggle in the first was Collier, who scored six of her team's eight points, in part by all four free throws she attempted, in the opening period.
Defense played a major role in Texas outscoring its opponents 21-8 in the second, as the full-court press roared to life, generating four turnovers and limiting K-State to very few outside shots.
"I feel like our second quarter was our best quarter defensively," Collier said. "We got a lot of stops in the press and it was a momentum-changer for us. That definitely carried us down the stretch."
The Wildcats scored the first four points in the back-and-forth third quarter before Lambert knocked down her second three of the day. Texas pushed its lead to nine points on a Collier layup with 1:34 to play, but it was clear the contest was far from over.
But Texas played stingy defense down the stretch, and closed out the victory on a 9-1 run, holding K-State to just one free throw over the final four minutes of play.
"A lot of good things come from pressure," Collier said. "A lot of good things com from adversity."
Collier led the team in points, with 21, and added 14 rebounds for her 15th double-double of the season. That mark is tied for the most by a Div. I player this season. Taylor, who has had an up-and-down sophomore campaign, played all 40 minutes, contributing 13 points. But it was backup point guard Ashley Chevalier who Schaefer and Collier both noted as a "game-changer." Chevalier scored just two points in 12 minutes, but her effort and confidence invigorated a fire into the rest of the team.
"I thought the person who probably changed the whole complexion of the game was Ashley in the first half," Schaefer said. "She gave up a couple of dribble penetrations, but I just thought her energy on the ball was infectious for the rest of the team and got us going."
Texas returns to action Wednesday against another team from the Sunflower State when the Horns take a trip north to Kansas, facing the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse at 7 p.m.
With the win, Texas moved to fourth in the Big 12, with a 9-5 record in conference play and 15-6 overall, while Kansas State fell to 6-14 overall, and just 1-12 against conference opponents. Kansas enters Wednesday's matchup second-to-last in the league with a 3-11 Big 12 record.