Just two minutes had passed, but the Texas women’s basketball team already found itself down eight points.
As the Longhorns fell apart in the first quarter of Wednesday night’s matchup against No. 25 TCU, the Horned Frogs were ready to get out the broomsticks and sweep their foes from Austin off the court.
But Texas clawed back to avenge the two-point home loss it suffered to TCU in January. On the Horned Frogs’ senior night, the Longhorns left the Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth, Texas, with a gutsy 77-67 win.
“I can’t really say enough about how TCU has been playing all year long and especially at home,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said. “So it’s a big win for us, and I thought that our team showed a lot of resilience tonight.”
The Longhorns’ clinic in the paint is what kept them alive. Texas’ 57 rebounds compared to TCU’s 27 helped cancel out its 20 turnovers and poor shooting early on. By halftime, the Longhorns’ sloppy play had them down 35-26.
Out of the locker room, though, Texas didn’t merely rely on opportunities off the glass. It was an entirely different team. Besides the 10-0 run to start the half, Aston said the Longhorns’ defensive energy, triggered by freshman guard Celeste Taylor, made all the difference.
Showing everyone why she was such a highly-touted recruit, Taylor played with heart all night long. She went off for a career-high 22 points, 12 of which came from beyond the arc. When Taylor wasn’t scoring, she hustled around the court, snagging rebounds and recording assists.
“Regardless of whether she is a freshman or not, (Taylor) has an ability to, what I call ‘go play to play,’ and to me, that’s contagious,” Aston said. “If you can get one or two people to play with that type of effort — I mean, we knew that we were going to have to have that kind of effort against TCU because they play really hard.”
Aston said Taylor’s heroics “caught fire” with the rest of the team, and the flame spread throughout the closing quarters. Sophomore center Charli Collier and senior forward Joyner Holmes enlivened in the second half, as the dominant post duo combined for 31 points and 28 rebounds on the night.
Texas’ ability to play as a strong unit was another key to the Longhorns’ upset victory.
“We know the other team is going to score at some point,” Taylor said. “So I think just not hanging our heads and just (saying), ‘We’re going to go right back down, and we’re going to score a bucket, and we’re going to come back down and get a stop.’ (We were) keeping each other focused and keeping each other in the game and communicating through every little thing.”
Wednesday’s scrappy game was just a typical matchup in today’s Big 12. Aston said each team is scratching and clawing for a spot in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
But despite the messy start and postseason implications of the contest, Taylor was just relishing the opportunity to show she can be more than a bit contributor for this team.
“It was really fun for me to play,” Taylor said. “I usually get told that I don’t smile out on the court. I think I was smiling out there today.”