Quintessential turnovers have become an unfortunate part of the identity of this year’s Longhorns. In a 69-65 season-ending upset loss to Indiana in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, the turnover problem was rampant again.
Unsurprisingly, after Texas opened up the game with a turnover, it became apparent turnovers would be the deciding factor. But just as it’s been all season for the Longhorns, it was a matter of whether Texas could establish a rebounding edge before turnovers came back to haunt it.
Friday afternoon, the turnovers were Texas’ Achilles’ heel once again.
After the Longhorns managed to establish themselves in the second quarter with an eight-point lead and only eight turnovers, all while dominating second chance points, they lost their way after halftime.
“I think that this team in particular has a difficult time with the reset button, of quarters or halves,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said. “That has happened a lot where we have lapses, where we seem to be relaxed and then can’t get focused. (We) start to give a team confidence and get ourselves in a ball game.”
Indiana amped up the pressure coming out of the locker room and used a 14-to-3 run at the start of the second half to establish a seven-point edge. Flustered by Indiana’s speed and pace of play, Texas committed 11 third-quarter turnovers as Indiana turned an eight-point halftime deficit into a three-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
It was apparent Texas was ruffled by Indiana’s run and their sense of desperation. At one point, Destiny Littleton even turned to her teammates and exclaimed, “We need some energy!” But for the entirety of the Hoosiers’ run, energy and desperation were absent.
Texas’ recipe for success in the first half, its inside edge in the post, was completely erased in the second. Indiana relentlessly double-teamed Jatarie White in the post, forcing the senior forward to make poor instinctive decisions with her four turnovers.
“The way we played tonight is a little bit of a reflection of how our year has been,” Aston said. “We played really good in spurts, and then we have spurts where we just don’t play very well.”
Of the 23 turnovers Texas finished with, none was more painful to watch than its last. With 17 seconds left, the Longhorns found themselves in a prime position. Texas had the ball on the right sideline, down two points. With the chaos and confusion of a game which epitomized March Madness, it was only fitting that the game (and Texas’ season) come down to one play.
As guard Sug Sutton rushed to the ball, her feet buckled from under her. She caught the ball as she fell while it casually rolled out of bounds. With the turnover, Indiana’s game-sealing task was as simple as inbounding the ball and converting free throws.
Sutton claimed she was tripped, implying she was fouled by an Indiana player. Aston believes she tripped over her own teammate, Charli Collier.
“In the third and fourth quarters, we had a lot of (unforced) turnovers,” guard Danni Williams said. “(We were) trying to make the home run play instead of just being simple.”
Aston’s statement kept it simple: “Just too many turnovers.”