Longhorns lock down against Oklahoma City

Drew King

On Saturday, head coach Karen Aston was looking for a defensive stopper — someone who had the confidence to take on a talented offensive player from the opposing team and make her life miserable. She asked the Longhorns if anyone was ready to accept the challenge.

“Lashann (Higgs) was the first to raise her hand,” Aston said.

On Sunday, the junior guard led Texas on a gritty defensive display in the team’s last exhibition game of the season against Oklahoma City University. The Longhorns took a 2-0 lead after 49 seconds in the first quarter and never trailed during the game.

On the Stars’ second possession of the game, Higgs stripped the ball away from the defender and found senior guard Brooke McCarty open for a three. On the next play, Higgs pilfered the ball again but missed her layup on the fast break.

“I’ll go back and look at deflections because that’s one of my favorite categories,” Aston said. “And I can already write her name on the board.”

Higgs’ defensive intensity infected her teammates throughout the rest of the game.

A jump shot from OCU freshman guard Payton Taylor trimmed Texas’ lead down to 25 points as the Longhorns led 52-27. Thirteen minutes and 37 seconds later, the Stars hadn’t scored another point.

Texas nabbed six steals and forced 13 turnovers in the third quarter. The Longhorns constantly swarmed the ball and capitalized nearly every time the Stars coughed up the ball. A layup by OCU senior center Alexis Hill with 5:49 left in the fourth quarter ended a 30-0 run for Texas.

“If you don’t play defense for coach, you’re not going to be playing at all,” McCarty said.

The Longhorns held the Stars to 11 points in the second half and won the game 99-36. McCarty led the team with five steals as Higgs chipped in with two of her own. Higgs believes she can continue slowing down her opponents throughout the rest of the season.

“During the offseason, I focused more on developing a stronger mental ability,” Higgs said. “I’m expecting basically to take on the role of (former Longhorn) Brianna Taylor (from) last year. I’m looking forward to being that defensive stopper like she was.”

Higgs’ coach was impressed, too.

“(Higgs is) a very gifted basketball player,” Aston said. “Her mentality and her mental toughness and being able to not get down on herself, and those types of things — those are the things that keep Lashann from being as good as she can be.”

With the exhibition portion of its schedule now in the rearview mirror, Texas will kickstart season on Nov. 12 at home against Stetson. Tip-off is set for 1:00 p.m.