The No. 17 Longhorns had a chance to prove their worth on the road against No. 25 Michigan State on Sunday, but fell short 71-57 to the Spartans in the Big 12/Big Ten Challenge.
Texas opened the game with the lead by way of Kathleen Nash’s two free throws. Texas maintained their lead midway through the first half, but it was all Spartans after that.
Michigan State’s Lykendra Johnson and Kalisha Keane had 20 points a piece to lead their team’s charge. Texas’ Nash led all Longhorn scorers with 17 points of her own in conjunction with her seven rebounds.
Post Ashley Gayle added 10 points and five rebounds while Ashleigh Fontenette contributed 13 points and two steals.
Though she is normally a surefire scorer, freshman Chassidy Fussell didn’t manage a single point and turned the ball over a team high five times in her 22 minutes of play.
It wasn’t just Fussell who had a tough time. The Longhorns as a whole were out of sync for much of the game, turning the ball over 27 times. Coach Gail Goestenkors has conceded in the past that her team’s turnover woes are a problem that have plagued Texas for much of the season, and Michigan State was able to capitalize.
As a team, Texas shot an uncharacteristically low 38 percent from the field and finished well below their season average of 91.2 points per game. They were the Big 12’s top scoring team coming into yesterday’s match.
Goestenkors said her team was simply not focused enough for this game.
“It was a bad week of practice for us,” Goestenkors said. “All but the last day we had at least two people out of practice. We are taking final exams right now, and I asked the team if this practice was an exam, what would you give yourselves, and the team said a D. This game reflects our practices and if I had to grade us on this game I would give us a D as well. Everyone has to go through finals and deal with it but you have to refocus and play ball.”
The last time these two teams met the score was lopsided in the other direction. Texas beat the Spartans 81-60 in March of 2004 in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The overall series record between these teams is now 2-2.
The Big 12/Big Ten Challenge features 12 games between the conference’s teams. After this weekend, the Big Ten leads the series 7-4. The final game of the series will be played on Dec. 9 when Purdue travels to Texas A&M. The series will also be played in 2011.
Next up for Goestenkors’ team is a date with Texas-Pan American on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Erwin Center.