Defense propels Texas over Kansas 61-52

Taylor Hawthorne

The defensive identity for the Texas women’s basketball team has been a work in progress this season, but the light turned on in its 61-52 victory against Kansas on Wednesday.  

Despite shooting a measly 38% from the field, Texas never trailed the Jayhawks because of a relentless defensive effort. The list of good things the defense did tonight is extensive, but what tops it is the full-court press. The Longhorns made getting to the basket awfully hard for Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse.

“The last few games our defense has improved, but today especially,” said Audrey Warren, junior guard and forward. “I think as we go on and the way we practice, it’s going to continue to incline.” 

The first quarter set the tone for the rest of the game. A restrictive effort, which held Kansas to just five points in the first quarter after two high-scoring games against its previous opponents, propelled the defensive chemistry.

“I thought we were really special tonight for most of the game defensively,” head coach Vic Schaefer said. “That’s a team (Kansas) that just scored 98 and 82 in their previous two games.”  

Kansas didn’t let its foot off the gas when it was knocking down shots, but the Texas pressure proved too much to handle. The Longhorns forced 11 turnovers and held the Jayhawk’s leading scorer, sophomore guard Holly Kersgieter, to just three points in the first half of play. 

Despite standing at just 5-foot-7-inches, freshman guard Ashley Chevalier grabbed seven rebounds and drew three charges on the night. Chevalier’s man-to-man technique made it tough for Kansas to get out of their half of the court. 

“She played 28 minutes, and I couldn’t get her off the floor,” Schaefer said. “Defensively, she’s always solid, the kid’s smart. For her size, she’ll stick her nose in there and take a charge running in front of a freight train.”  

Chevalier’s contributions were especially pivotal for the Longhorns with sophomore guard Celeste Taylor in foul trouble. 

Texas, lacking its second-leading scorer in Taylor for much of the night, was boosted by Warren’s shot creating. Warren recorded her first double-double of her career, finishing with 12 points and ten rebounds. 

“She’s always going to go on the floor and do what she has to do and go hard,” Chevalier said. “It’s fun to play with someone like that.” 

The effort shown tonight by the defense is a testament to the growth Texas has seen this season, but allowing 22 points in the fourth quarter showed where the defense still needs to improve to finish the season on a high note. 

“I think our defensive improvement is evident at this point, but you can see in the fourth quarter we had a lapse and it just shows even more progress is necessary,” Chevalier said. “A game like today is really important for us, not just for the improvements that we saw, but how much more improvement we need to have.”