With back-to-back losses for the first time since December, Texas was in a peculiar spot. Their final game against TCU was a must-win with conference tournament implications.
After being outplayed against Iowa State, who is en route to a No. 2 seed in the Big 12 tournament, Texas had to find a way to “turn the page.”
The challenge was met by the Longhorns as they won 62-48 over the Horned Frogs. Knowing how important the game was, Coach Aston made an adjustment to start the game. She started forward Jada Underwood, who has been relinquished to the bench and a lower role in the past few games. The substitution, as well as the improved mindset, brought Texas to the victory.
“It was a big chip on our shoulder,” forward Joyner Holmes said. “We knew we had to lock in because we were at their place.”
The first half was a battle. Both teams went tic-for-tac. With each team being nearly identical on the stat sheet, the game was locked at halftime, 31-31.
It wasn’t until the fourth quarter when the Longhorns finally began to gain separation and ultimately secure the win.
“I feel pretty good about this game just because it was fun,” point guard Sug Sutton said. “Everyone played as a team and we all did our job.”
Sutton played one of her better games of the season in the finale. Her 21-point, 6-assist performance follows a strong scoring output of 21 points from the loss to Iowa State.
“It’s been a process for me figuring out how teams are playing me,” Sutton said. “They were switching … giving me driving lanes, so I had to take advantage.”
Along with Sutton, Texas was able to establish an inside presence, something that had been missing for the Longhorns for a couple games. Forwards Joyner Holmes and Jatarie White were both able to have stellar nights. Holmes recorded a double-double, while White came up one rebound short of attaining the same feat.
“We’ve been working hard each day in practice,” Holmes said. “I think it was a really good win for us.”
Texas was lackadaisical once again with the basketball, committing 15 turnovers. However, the Longhorns were able to retain the advantage by out-rebounding TCU by 16.
“You have to start with our effort defensively,” head coach Karen Aston said. “I thought that we did a really good job on the boards, especially when it really mattered.”
Due to their recent struggles, Texas had fallen to No. 21 in the AP Poll. The team’s ranking was a lengths away from its No. 11 ranking to start the season. Now with the win, Texas should surely move up in the national rankings.
More importantly, the win tonight affects their first round matchup in the Big 12 Tournament, which begins Friday. The difference between the third and sixth ranked team going into Tuesday’s matchup was only one game. Had the Longhorns lost, they would have the same record as the three teams below them, resorting to a tiebreaker they would have lost.
Now, Texas has a win and a rejuvenated sense of momentum heading into the tournament.