McGee-Stafford posts 26 in women’s basketball’s third straight loss

Jori Epstein

Playing an overaggressive, undisciplined defense Saturday night, Texas sent the Cyclones to the charity stripe repeatedly. Iowa State scored 30 points off free throws compared to Texas’ mere four.

The frazzled Longhorns didn’t control themselves much more on offense. Concerned that Texas gave Iowa State a possession advantage, head coach Karen Aston attributed the 81-64 defeat to a weakness in her team’s rebounding.

“People are paying a whole lot of attention to us on the backboards, but we’re not very diligent with doing our work early and getting ourselves some extra possessions,” Aston said. “I’m disappointed in our efforts on the boards.” 

Aston’s post-game reaction came despite the Longhorns’ outrebounding the Cylcones 39-36, as sophomore center Imani McGee-Stafford and senior guard Chassidy Fussell combined for 15 rebounds.

Offensively, Texas (17-10, 8-7 Big 12) also outscored Iowa State 33-20 in the paint. But, with the Cyclones hitting just 37 percent of their field goals, Texas needed to be closer to its 11.6-rebound advantage to beat the Cyclones. 

“They had critical transition buckets against us and we couldn’t make any defensive stops when necessary,” Aston said. “Guarding the penetration well is something we’ve struggled with recently. Critical possessions changed the flow of the game and gave them momentum.”

Rebounding was certainly an issue, but it was the turnover differential that proved fatal for the Longhorns. The Cyclones collected 23 points off 15 turnovers, compared to just five points off six turnovers for Texas. 

Although Aston said Ames is “always a tough place to play in” and noted that the more than 13,000 attendees intimidated her younger players, McGee-Stafford wasn’t fazed. She led all scorers with a career-high 26 points to complement eight rebounds and four assists.

Fussell, who was playing in Hilton Coliseum for the fourth time, also played well in the hostile environment, notching 15 points and seven rebounds. Sophomore guard Brady Sanders rounded out the scoring threat with nine points on three-of-six shooting behind the arc, five rebounds and four assists. But, beyond those three, only freshman Nekia Jones scored more
than two points.

“[We were] playing some young players who hadn’t been here before and hadn’t been in this environment, so transition defense was definitely a factor,” Aston said. “That’s where the run came from. But I tried some different players because we had starters really struggling offensively and I wanted to give them a lift off the bench.”

The bench could not provide the necessary lift on Saturday night, but Texas will have a chance to redeem itself Tuesday at home against TCU. After the Horned Frogs (15-12, 6-9) bested Texas in Fort Worth in January, Texas  hopes the match will break its three-game losing streak.