The Texas women’s basketball team found themselves in uncharted territory, only leading by three points at the end of the first half against Iowa State Sunday afternoon.
Texas needed to find a way to counteract the Cyclones’ strategy of packing the paint to hold junior center Charli Collier to seven points at the half. Already shorthanded, without energizing junior forward Audrey Warren and newly-eligible junior center Lauren Ebo, Longhorns had to find an answer to avoid dropping their first conference game.
Riding junior guard Joanne Allen-Taylor and redshirt sophomore guard Karisma Ortiz’s hot hands, the Longhorns outscored the Cyclones 24-16 in the third quarter and never looked back, beating the Cyclones 74-59.
“We came out with intensity (in the second half),” Allen-Taylor said. “We knew we could get out in transition a little bit and start sharing the ball a little more. That’s how we got those good looks, and we just knocked it down.”
The Longhorns came out of the halftime break with a palpable energy on the defensive side of the ball, holding Iowa State to 30% shooting from the field. Sophomore guard Celeste Taylor, who missed the last three contests with an ankle injury, enjoyed a triumphant return with her defensive pressure, though it may not reflect in the stat sheet.
Taylor’s defensive effort was critical in limiting Iowa State junior guard Ashley Joens, a preseason Player of the Year candidate, to 19 points on 4-for-17 shooting, head coach Vic Schaefer said.
“I thought we did a great job on Joens,” Schaefer said. “That kid’s a monster, y’all. She’s really good, can score at all three levels. I thought Celeste (Taylor) did a nice job on her limiting her touches and defending her.”
Allen-Taylor continued her breakout junior campaign on Sunday and finished with a team-high 16 points in a whopping 40 minutes. Ortiz complemented Allen-Taylor’s driving layups with some deadeye three-point shooting and finished with a career-high four three-point field goals.
The victory was a result of total team effort despite key players not suiting up, Ortiz said.
“I think all of us are pretty good at staying in the moment and utilizing the players that we do have,” Ortiz said. “Making sure that we are doing the best we can and utilizing each person’s skill set with the five that we have out on the court.”
While Iowa State came into Sunday’s contest boasting three freshman starters who accounted for 40% of their total scoring, it was a Texas freshman who dampened the effects of losing Warren. Freshman forward DeYona Gaston finished the game with 13 points and eight rebounds on an efficient 50% field goal percentage.
Gaston took advantage of Iowa State’s overwhelming defensive attention on Collier, slipping through the cracks of the Cyclones’ zone to grab multiple offensive rebounds and easy put-back shots.
“DeYona (had) 13 (points) and eight (rebounds),” Schaefer said. “If she had made some free throws, she would have had 16 or 17 (points). If you get that out of a freshman tonight … we’ll have a chance to win a lot of games.”