Texas gets the job done in Norman, beats Sooners 70-53

Robert Trevino

In a season where the Longhorns have had a fair share of games with sluggish starts, Tuesday night’s road trip to face the rival Oklahoma Sooners proved to be the exception rather than the rule. Texas took control of the game early in the second quarter and never looked back, beating Oklahoma in Norman for the fifth straight year, 70-53.

“I’m really proud of our team’s start to both halves,” head coach Karen Aston said. “We’re a team that is a lot better when we start well and don’t necessarily put ourselves in a hole.”

After dropping a heartbreaker to West Virginia on Jan. 12 and falling to 1–2 in conference play, Aston’s team has put together an impressive stretch of five consecutive wins to put her team back firmly in the conversation for an NCAA Tournament bid.

However, Tuesday’s game was played underneath the shadow of the tragic death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant who, along with eight others, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, died Sunday in a helicopter crash.

The Longhorns wore burnt orange Kobe Bryant basketball shoes to pay tribute to Bryant and his daughter, with team members writing various references to his No. 24, Gianna’s No. 2 on the shoes and one reference to his iconic “Mamba mentality.”

“Especially in the basketball world and the world of sports, he had such a big impact on the game, and he contributed so much to the game,” senior guard Lashann Higgs said. “It’s just a terrible tragedy. You know, times like this you just got to appreciate every moment, live every moment day-by-day.”

Higgs, who led the team in scoring with 19 points coming off the bench, was just one of four Longhorns in double-digits.

The two teams traded blows early on, with the Sooners leading 15-13 late in the first quarter, until the Longhorns went on a 16-0 run, limiting Oklahoma to just eight second quarter points and taking a 14-point lead into the half.

“I just thought we increased our ball pressure. Again, we were really active in the first half … and our bench did a really good job when they did,” Aston said. “Obviously, Lashann, she’s a sixth starter so to say, and I thought (sophomore guard Audrey Warren) really was active defensively for us.”

Texas did a good job holding Oklahoma’s star guard Taylor Robertson in check. The sophomore, who has averaged over 20 points per game, had just 11 on Tuesday night. She attempted just six shots while playing a complete 40 minutes, a far cry from her average 12.9 shots per contest.

“(A)bove anything else, I would say it wasn’t even necessarily the way we were guarding her,” Aston said. “It was the way everybody was committed to helping each other that made the big difference because you can spend too much time paying attention to one and let others break free.”

The Longhorns have a massive game coming up on Friday against the visiting No. 2 Baylor Bears, who come in with an 18–1 record and an 11-game win streak of their own. But the Longhorns’ biggest conference game of the year wasn’t on anyone’s mind Tuesday night.

“I’m proud of our group for their focus today,” Aston said. “I was concerned about the game, our team obviously is affected, as everyone is, by the tragedy. I just thought that we had a hard time the past couple of days really just focusing, and I didn’t know what to expect today and I thought they really rallied around each other and helped each other get focused.”