Longhorns 0-4 start to Big 12 play summarizes holiday break

Matt Warden

A month filled with gifts and new beginnings dealt the Longhorns a solid dose of humility.

The Longhorns emerged from the holiday break with a 7-8 overall record, including a 0-4 start in Big 12 play. After starting the season at a promising 5-0 clip, the Longhorns showed that inexperience and immaturity still need to be addressed moving forward.

“We need to understand that the only way we can win basketball games this year is to play hard-nosed defense,” head coach Karen Aston said. “I am hoping that this is a reality check for them and we can go back to work.”

Texas began the holiday break with a highly publicized game against UCLA at Reliant Stadium in Houston. The then No. 12 Longhorns suffered their first loss of the season against a tough Bruins team, 62-42.

Nneka Enemkpali proved to be the only power for the Longhorns, scoring 16 points to go along with 12 rebounds for her sixth straight double-double.

“Young kids get discouraged and stop making effort plays when they start basing things on offense,” Aston said.

“That is a sign of youth, immaturity and lack of leadership.”

The Longhorns showed signs of both weakness and excellence in their next five games leading up to Big 12 play, going 2-3 with a few close losses. The two wins came against Louisiana Monroe and Cornell, in which the Longhorns outrebounded their opponents by twenty a piece in both games.

Freshman Imani McGee-Stafford showed her continued improvement in these wins as she posted double-doubles in each, including 11 points and 11 rebounds against the Warhawks and 20 points and 12 rebounds against Cornell.

The game that seemed to define the Longhorns’ need for improvement was the 94-75 loss to Tennessee. Chassidy Fussell scored a career high 31 points in her return to her home state but the Volunteers shot 46 percent from the field, showcasing the lack of focus on defense for Texas. The game also marked the first time the team had been outrebounded all season.

“This team that we have right now is definitely a work in progress,” Aston said. “We talked about the fact that this was a journey. It’s not the end of it right now.”

Texas opened up Big 12 conference play with a 73-65 loss to Iowa State in an overtime thriller. Despite 15 points from Chassidy Fussell, Ashley Roberts and Cokie Reed, which led to the Longhorns outshooting the Cyclones, the ladies couldn’t close it out.

Defensive lapses once again showcased themselves against Oklahoma as the Longhorns allowed the Sooners to shoot 50 percent from the floor, adding 11 three pointers. Enemkpali buoyed the charge with 12 points and 10 rebounds while freshman Empress Davenport scored a career high 12 points in the 78-70 loss to the Sooners.

The Longhorns closed out the break with a 64-52 loss to Oklahoma State on Sunday morning, shooting under 40 percent from the field for the fourth straight game. Although the synopsis looks bleak, this losing streak yields a lot of learning opportunities for Texas.

“I want to reiterate that I thought we had good effort. We have to look at that at this point in the season,” Aston said. “We have to look if we are giving the kind of effort needed to win basketball games this season and I think we are from a defensive standpoint.”

Texas will continue Big 12 competition Wednesday against Texas Tech.

Published on January 14, 2013 as "Longhorns looking to bounce back after dropping six straight games".