The time, place or sport being played doesn’t matter much to Texas fans when it comes to Oklahoma. Bad blood with the Sooners is ever present on this side of the Red River.
The Texas women’s basketball team brought a special energy to its Saturday night matchup against storied rival Oklahoma — and so did the fans who made it out. Those in the sparsely populated Frank Erwin Center made themselves heard all night long as they watched the Longhorns top the Sooners 86-76.
“I thought it was a really good win for our team, considering how physical the game was and kind of the ebb and flow of it,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said. “I thought we were ready to play when the game started, and I thought that we made adjustments as it went along with what they were giving us.”
Knocking down her first of four shots from beyond the arc, freshman guard Celeste Taylor struck first for Texas. Taylor’s energy spread over to sophomore center Charli Collier and senior forward Joyner Holmes, who combined for four points to put the Longhorns up 7-0 in the early minutes of the first quarter.
Witnessing one of Texas’ hottest starts of the season, Longhorn fans had plenty to cheer for. But Oklahoma came surging back from its early deficit, answering for every Longhorn score. When the buzzer sounded to end the first period, both teams had put up 23 points.
“I thought some fatigue set in on both teams,” Aston said. “Hard fought. I thought Oklahoma played really hard, as did our players.”
Fans waged war against referees in the second quarter. Before Oklahoma momentarily claimed a lead, Texas supporters were up in arms over a foul called on Collier. Tempers flared even more when senior guard Jada Underwood came crashing to the floor on a collision play that sent the Sooners, not Underwood, to the free throw line.
As the Erwin Center erupted into a chorus of boos for several minutes, a visibly angry Aston received a technical foul. That foul call fired the team up.
“I kind of liked the tech that coach got,” Collier said. “ It got me hyped up. It got everyone hyped up, and it really just made us play better … I saw her walk over there and get in his face, and I was like ‘Okay, coach.” It got us going.”
The game atmosphere cooled off by the second half, and the Longhorns were back to business as usual. Taylor continued to shine on both sides of the ball, finishing her night with a career-high 27 points. And despite Oklahoma’s physicality, Holmes and Collier maintained some efficiency in the paint with a combined 18 rebounds and 30 points.
While Taylor, Collier and Holmes starred throughout, several players contributed by putting up points, setting teammates up to score or making noise defensively.
“The effort that Jada had tonight — it doesn’t always show up,” Aston said, “But she had five assists … I just thought that (Taylor and Underwood’s) connection was really good because at times they’re guarding maybe someone’s best perimeter player.”
On Thursday, the Longhorns will travel north on the highway to face the juggernaut in Waco: No. 2 Baylor. Taylor said she thinks the Longhorns’ hot streak has come just in time for that matchup and beyond.
“It’s really exciting for us because we want to peak at the right time,” Taylor said. “ We know how much we have to give, so I think that we’re just going to continue to give that because at the end of the day, we want to win and we want to go far.”