After a down-to-the-wire loss against West Virginia Saturday, Texas needs to make a change defensively if it wants to return to its winning ways against a hot Oklahoma State team Wednesday at the Frank Erwin Center.
Though the margin of defeat wasn’t as extreme as the first time Texas faced the Mountaineers, the defense failed to end West Virginia’s nine-game win streak. The Longhorns lack the natural instincts that come with a defensive effort — something head coach Vic Schaefer and staff are trying to teach.
“Defense is a learned response,” Schaefer said. “It’s like walking by a hot stove with a red coil on and you touch that red coil. It only takes one time and you know that coil’s hot. It’s the same way with defense.”
Seventy-five points of offense should be enough to win, Schaefer said.
Texas has shown glimpses of how good its defense can be and has proven it can be leaned on at times, but the consistent chemistry is lacking. Schaefer needs all of his players to step up and run the defense.
“I need to have players besides (junior guard) Audrey (Warren) and (freshman guard) Ashley (Chevalier) and (sophomore guard) Celeste (Taylor) that will stick their nose in there and take a charge,” Schaefer said. “That’s kind of where I'm at with this team, and we’re going to work on it again today.”
To play better defensively, Schaefer said Texas needs to have a change of heart in how they play Wednesday.
“We’ve got to change what’s important,” Schaefer said. “We’ve got to understand what is important for the team to win, and that’s where I think we are right now.”
The Longhorns allowed 19 fast break points against the Cowgirls in their 68-51 loss Jan. 27, making it an area of focus for Wednesday’s matchup. Texas will also be aggressive against Oklahoma State senior forward Natasha Mack, the Cowgirls’ leading scorer and best defensive player.
“(Mack) just impacts the game so much on both ends,” Schaefer said. “That’s what makes her a great player. We can’t shy away from going at her. We’ve been having a pretty good inside game; we gotta keep being effective down there.”
On the flipside, offense is not a problem for Texas right now. Before Saturday’s loss, Texas won two strong back-to-back wins propelled by good shooting.
Paint play is a strong point with junior center Lauren Ebo, who is available to interchange with junior forward Charli Collier. The high-low dynamic Ebo and Collier create is lethal to any opposing defense.
Ebo is shooting around 60% from the field, and Collier is coming off of a pair of 30-point nights.
“I certainly think they have to respect Charli from a distance, so it leaves Lauren down there one-on-one,” Schaefer said. “I think we recognize that matchup, and we feel good about that.”
The word “different” is the goal for Texas Wednesday. With this melting pot of a team made of returners, freshmen and transfers under a new system, development and comfortability will take time.
“It is a struggle for us,” Schaefer said. “We’ll get there. I don't know when, but we’ll get there.”