Traveling to Waco to play No. 2 Baylor in front of a sold-out crowd was never supposed to be easy. On Thursday night, the reigning NCAA Champion Bears and their fans made it anything but that for the Texas women’s basketball team.
“I think the crowd was really loud today,” senior point guard Sug Sutton said. “They have a really good crowd, so it was kind of hard to call out plays.”
In a game with a small margin for error, the Longhorns made too many mistakes in their 69-53 loss.
Texas looked shaken by Baylor’s formidable defense from the start, first with several missed shots and then with turnovers. By the end of the opening period, the Longhorns had fallen down 14 points.
Baylor’s ability to capitalize off of Texas’ pitfalls erased its own mistakes. Even though the Bears committed 21 turnovers of their own, they forced the Longhorns to give the ball right back on numerous occasions.
But Baylor didn’t just take away the basketball. Kim Mulkey’s squad also took away Texas’ best players. Entering the second half, sophomore center Charli Collier had scored just 2 points, and senior forward Joyner Holmes struggled to knock down shots.
To make matters worse, Texas’ guards were equally as quiet. Freshman Celeste Taylor recorded a career-best 27 points last weekend against Oklahoma. However, Thursday night, she could only muster up a single score.
Coming out of the locker room, the Longhorns seemed to surge back, going on a 5-0 run to start the second half. But they couldn’t finish. Missed opportunities in the paint and on the defensive side continued to pile up. Meanwhile, the Bears ran away in the third quarter, outscoring the Longhorns by 9 points.
By the fourth quarter, it was too late for Texas. The Longhorns’ first-half mistakes began their downward spiral, and they only snowballed from there.
“We were able to regroup a little bit at halftime,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said. “But the lead was a little bit too much for us, and we weren’t able to make enough shots. … We just didn’t make some easy bunnies that would have helped us. On the flip side of that, I thought Baylor made some really big momentum plays that separated them.”
Despite Texas’ defensive fight, Mulkey’s Bears proved too strong. Three players scored in the double digits, and Baylor picked up 47 total rebounds to Texas’ 34.
The Bears invaded the Longhorns’ head space, further distancing themselves from their storied Interstate 35 rivals. It’s been three years since Texas last beat Baylor. For now, the losing streak stands, and the Longhorns will have to move on.
“What you don’t want to do at this point in your season is let a loss devastate you and you’re not ready to play in your next game or you’re not trying to move forward and get ready for tournament play, which is right around the corner,” Aston said. “We will look at this and try to learn from it.”