Texas falls to TCU in Big 12 opener

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Texas senior guard Lashann Higgs looks for a teammate to pass the ball to while Northwestern State guards Gabby Bell, back right, and Kira Bonner, front right, defend during the third quarter of their basketball game on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019 at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Photo Credit: Joshua Guenther | Daily Texan Staff

Texas has been battling it out with tough, nonconference opponents on the basketball court since October. But in many ways, the No. 25 Longhorns’ Friday night game against TCU to open Big 12 play was like the start of a new season — one Texas began with a loss.

Over the last month, the Longhorns have relied on the heroics of sophomore center Charli Collier and senior forward Joyner Holmes. But in TCU’s scrappy 65-63 win over Texas, the Horned Frogs won their first game in Austin against the Longhorns after a 21-game losing streak, shutting down their dominant interior tandem.

“I think they played our tendencies really well,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said. “They knew what the strengths of each individual player was. I thought they did a really good job bodying our bigs and we didn’t handle it very well until really late game.”

In the first half, Holmes went scoreless and got into foul trouble. Collier’s performance wasn’t much better, with only three points scored and two personal fouls of her own. Yet, Texas remained competitive, almost equaling TCU in rebounds and leading throughout several points in the game.

“I think this was obviously what you would consider a typical Big 12 game where points were rather hard to come by,” Aston said. “It boiled down to what I think a lot of the games in the league boil down to — little things (making) a difference.”

As Collier and Holmes went cold, senior point guard Sug Sutton stepped up with crucial plays. Sutton was responsible for two of the Longhorns’ five made threes in the first half. Texas was up 32-27 as its players headed into the locker room for the break.

Holmes came alive in the third quarter as the Horned Frogs became more physical. She sank free throws, scored on lobs from senior guard Lashann Higgs and recorded a steal. Meanwhile, Collier scored two more points and fought hard in the paint with two blocks. 

As Holmes and Collier began to get into a rhythm, Sutton froze. Pressured frequently by double teams, she turned the ball over six times and went scoreless in the second half. 

To make matters worse for the Longhorns, TCU got hot in the third quarter, going on an 8-0 run. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Horned Frogs led 50-45.

“I think I've said this before, but the third quarter has not been our best quarter — probably in every game we've played,” Aston said. “It was a problem tonight. I don't know what the reason is (as to) why we aren't coming out of halftime very well, but you can't go a stretch of four or five minutes and not play defense in our league or against anybody that's any good.”

Higgs, freshman guard Celeste Taylor and sophomore guard Audrey Warren made plays in the fourth quarter to shave the deficit. Warren was 3 for 3 from the field, Taylor made two late threes and Higgs shot a three of her own to put Texas up 63-61. 

TCU quickly reclaimed the lead on a score off a rebound with 6.7 seconds left on the clock. The Longhorns remained in position to win or tie the game, but a travel called on Sutton returned the ball to the Horned Frogs. TCU dribbled around for the last two seconds before adding another win to its all-time record against Texas.

The Longhorns will regroup before heading to Ames, Iowa to compete against another Big 12 opponent in Iowa State.

“We have another game coming up, so we can’t be down on ourselves for too long,” Sutton said. “We just have to move on and get better as a team and focus on what we need to do to win the next game.”