Taylor earns recognition for tough defense

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Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

You often have to look past the box score to recognize Brianna Taylor’s impact on the hardwood. 

The senior’s significance on the court stretches far beyond scoring or rebounding, steals or assists. There’s no denying Taylor’s athleticism, but her defensive prowess and dedication to doing the dirty work came to the forefront Wednesday when she earned the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year award — her first individual honor since arriving on the 40 Acres in 2013.

“I actually jumped up and down in the elevator,” Taylor said, upon learning of the achievement. 

Taylor said receiving the award was a great honor. 

“I owe it all to my team and my coaches for emphasizing defense and it’s a huge part of what this team is,” Taylor said.  “I owe it to my team for pushing
me everyday.”

Pressuring opponents on the perimeter is Taylor’s craft on a Texas squad that holds opponents to 36.3 percent from the field and allows only 61.5 points per game — ranking second in the Big 12 in both categories.

Junior guard Brooke McCarty, who became the first player in program history to claim the Big 12 Player of the Year title, praises the threat Taylor poses on defense. When McCarty sees her backcourt teammate lock in on an opponent, she thinks, “You’re not gonna get past her.”       

“I think Bri works harder than anybody on the court,” McCarty said. “I’ll put her up against anyone in the country any day. I just think that her getting that award kind of boosts her confidence. The world’s finally seeing that she’s important too.”

Taylor’s humble demeanor is undoubtedly appreciated by her teammates and head coach Karen Aston, who constantly emphasizes the importance of a
“team-first” mentality. 

“The people I appreciate coaching the most are the ones that show up everyday and work,” Aston said. “It’s not necessarily the ones that score the most points or the flashiest ones. A coach appreciates people that work everyday.”

Taylor’s development on the court parallels the program’s progress over the past four seasons. The Longhorns’ two seniors, Taylor and center Kelsey Lang, have played a crucial role in reclaiming Texas’ status as a national contender under Aston — the Big 12 Coach of the Year. 

“Their biggest legacy is being a part of getting Texas back to the place that it belongs,” Aston said. “If you ask people across the country if Texas is back on the national scene or do you think they’re competitive on a national level, I think everybody would answer the question, ‘Yes.’”

Only a few games remain having “Texas” sewn across her jersey, but Taylor’s not done yet. She has a chance to display her defensive dominance at the Big 12 Tournament this weekend in Oklahoma City. The Longhorns will face either Oklahoma State or Kansas in the quarterfinals on Saturday at 6 p.m.