Texas moves on to Semifinals in Big 12 Tournament with sweep over Iowa State in OT thriller

Taylor Hawthorne

Despite the 10:30 a.m. start time, both Texas and Iowa State came out energized in Kansas City in the Quarterfinal of the Big 12 Tournament. 

Competitiveness is something head coach Vic Schaefer has preached about all season, and Friday morning, the Texas women’s basketball team showed the highest level of competitive nature in an overtime thriller. Texas escaped overtime with a 84-82 victory, beating Iowa State for the third consecutive time this season. The familiarity between these two teams created an emotional fight down to the last second.

“I’ve been doing this a long time, and I don’t remember seeing a more gutsy effort from a group of kids than this group today,” Schaefer said with a shaky voice. “I am beyond proud of our toughness, our resilience (and) our competitive spirit.”  

Foul trouble would pose a problem for Texas going into overtime. The Longhorns were forced to play without their leading scorer, junior center Charli Collier, who fouled out late in the fourth quarter. 

Junior guard Joanne Allen-Taylor and sophomore guard Celeste Taylor also were in foul trouble, each having to play with four nearing the end of regulation. The number of fouls, however, didn’t stray the focus to securing the win. 

“I remember in OT I said, ‘Coach, I have four fouls and I’m guarding Ashley (Joens, the Big 12’s leading scorer). Do you want me to switch off with somebody?’ He said, ‘No, don’t worry about it,’” Allen-Taylor said. “So we were just worried about getting the win so much that we didn’t really pay attention to who had fouls. We just dug it out.”

Texas came into Friday’s matchup with a limited bench. Schaefer said the team had more players cheering on the sidelines than able to come in and play. 

However, Texas’ guard play did not shy away from the Cyclones’ aggressive defensive effort despite being in foul trouble and having no one to relieve them.

Freshman guard Ashley Chevalier scored back-to-back buckets and then helped force a five second count against Iowa State. Chevalier’s restrictive defensive press created problems for the Iowa State momentum down the stretch. 

“Without the game that she had, we don’t win that game,” graduate transfer guard Kyra Lambert said. “She stepped up big time when her number was called. She rose to the occasion, and I could not be more proud of her.” 

With the remaining seconds of overtime winding down, free throw shooting secured Texas’s victory. Taylor made two clutch free throws with 15 seconds left to make it a two-score game. Taylor, who shot 50% over the season from the free-throw line, stepped up when the Longhorns needed her most, Schaefer said.

“(Taylor) steps up today in a big game and mows six out of six,” Schaefer said. “That’s what a player does. You work on your craft, you work on your game and then you go put it into action. Man, she made some huge free throws for us.”

Iowa State restricted the paint points for Texas, but this allowed for Lambert and Allen-Taylor to flourish behind the arc. The two experienced guards combined for ten 3-pointers. 

The all-around monster performances by Lambert and Allen-Taylor kept the energy up for Texas, especially in OT with big shots and tough defensive plays. 

Life without Collier, who declared for the 2021 WNBA Draft this week, was experienced in the victory, as the junior sat out the overtime period. Although she will also be leaving Texas at the conclusion of the season, Lambert sees the seeds beginning to bloom for a promising future for the team. 

“We had been planting seeds all season, and now the harvest is starting to come,” Lambert said. “We’re peaking at the right time. We say ‘Texas Fight’ all the time, but that’s what it looks like.”