Longhorns eliminated in back-and-forth affair against Indiana

Donnovan Smoot

Texas’ season is over.

The No. 7 seeded Longhorns were upset by the No. 10 seeded Indiana Hoosiers, 69-65 on Friday night.

For Texas, Friday night was a microcosm of their season. The best and worst parts were on display. There was a slow start, a comeback powered by their interior presence, a high number of turnovers and a tightly contested fourth quarter.

“The way we played tonight was kind of a reflection of how our year has been,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said. “We played really really good in spurts. And then we had spurts where we don’t play very well or execute as well as we need to.”

Texas had a chance to win the game with 25 seconds left. The play called out of a timeout was meant to get Sug Sutton the ball on the wing. However, Sutton tripped on an opponent’s foot going for the ball and stumbled out of bounds with the ball, leading to a turnover and a subsequent foul on the other end. Indiana knocked in two free throws and stuck the knife in the Longhorns’ season.

After the game, Sutton was concise with her recap of the final play.

“I was coming off and I don’t know what happened,” Sutton said. “But I tripped.”

The turnover at the end of the game wasn’t the downfall of the Longhorns. It was the totality of the 23 turnovers — almost double the turnovers made by Indiana —  they committed throughout the game.

“We had a lot of turnovers,” guard Danni Williams said. “(We) tried to force things, make the home run play rather than just being simple.”

Early in the game, the Longhorns had to recover after being punched in the mouth. Texas used their size advantage to dominate the second quarter. Texas grabbed six offensive rebounds in the second quarter alone. The domination on the boards allowed the Longhorns to go on a 13-2 run to take back the lead from the Hoosiers.

Nevertheless, the Longhorns unraveled in the third and allowed Indiana to get back into the game in the third quarter. Texas committed 11 turnovers in the period alone.

“The third quarter is what hit us,” Aston said. “We didn’t execute offensively or play defense. I think this team in particular has a difficult time with the reset button. We’ve had lapses where we seem to get relaxed and we can’t get focused.”

On top of the poor third-quarter play, the performance of Indiana's Jaelynn Penn was too much. Her 24 points on just under 50 percent shooting added her to the list of guards that have been able to have a great night against the Longhorns this season.

“Penn was really, really good,” Aston said. “We tried several people on her. She was a matchup problem for us tonight.”

This is the first time since Aston’s first season at Texas that the team hasn’t made it to the Round of 32. With the elimination, next season is already a priority.

“I’m excited about the future for sure,” Aston said. “I’m excited to see what they learned from this season.”

The flaws for Texas, turnovers and mental toughness, proved to be fatal ones that cost them their season. As three players walk out the door and injured players make their return, Texas has an interesting offseason, to say the least.