The Vic Schaefer era got off to an explosive start Wednesday afternoon at the Frank Erwin Center as the Texas women’s basketball team forced 35 turnovers en route to a 90-51 win against an overmatched SMU team.
Propelled by a lockdown defensive performance, the Longhorns did not trail for the entire game. New head coach Schaefer has emphasized his goal of putting relentless pressure on opponents, and Texas responded in the season opener by running a full court press late into the third quarter with a double-digit lead. Along with committing an absurd amount of turnovers, SMU shot a measly 37% from the field.
“It’s really gratifying to see how hard we played and the problems we created for SMU offensively because of that effort,” Schaefer said. “Emotionally, I couldn’t be more proud.”
The contest was essentially over at the end of the first half thanks in large part to a standout performance from sophomore guard Celeste Taylor. The sophomore finished with 24 points and recorded a career-high eight steals. The havoc the Texas defense created was a total team effort, Taylor said.
“Our defensive style is pressuring the ball, getting into passing lanes and helping our teammates out,” Taylor said. “I stayed in the passing lanes, and whenever I saw the ball up in the air I got to a spot.”
Collier, a preseason All-Big 12 selection, had an impressive final stat line with 25 points and 12 rebounds, but the junior center played just four minutes in the first half because of two quick fouls early in the game. She said spending extended time on the bench taught her a valuable lesson.
“It just reminded me that I can’t afford to do that to my team,” Collier said. “They need me on the floor. I have to play 40 minutes, and tonight I didn’t play 40 minutes because … I was in foul trouble early. That right there just tells me, after this game, ‘No more.’”
Luckily for the Longhorns, forwards junior Audrey Warren and freshman DeYona Gaston filled in admirably for Collier to ensure the Longhorns didn’t miss a beat.
Gaston, playing in her first collegiate game, was an absolute force on the defensive side of the ball. The Pearland, Texas, product finished with nine rebounds and a whopping five blocks. It was an impressive and surprisingly solid debut for Gaston, who has missed chunks of practice time with nagging injuries.
“I thought she was really active defensively,” Schaefer said. “She had five blocks, she got her hands on a bunch of deflections and she’s only going to get better. She hasn’t been practicing a whole lot (due to injuries).”
Gaston was a key recruit for Schaefer. After being named the No.1 recruit in the nation as a freshman in high school, Gaston came to the Longhorns as the No. 90 prospect as a result of various injuries. Nobody knows her true potential like Collier, however, as the two played similar AAU circuits during their high school careers in the Greater Houston area.
“DeYona, especially, went out there as a freshman … and did well,” Collier said. “I feel like she didn’t fold. There were a few times where she could have shot the ball more, but I feel like she definitely stepped up.”
The Schaefer era is off to a strong start, but the head coach and his team know they cannot hang their hats for too long after a season-opening win.
“Defensively, we did what we have to do every night,” Schaefer said. “That has to be us every night. We have to play that hard.”