No. 22 women’s basketball fails to overcome South Florida, takes tight 65-70 loss

Emma Hutchinson, Senior Sports Reporter

Entering its matchup against the South Florida Bulls on a two-game winning streak, No. 22 Texas women’s basketball was eager to continue its success.    

Instead, the Longhorns were shaken up by the Bulls’ persistent offense, falling 65-70 on Friday at the Moody Center. The last time the two teams met back in 2019, Texas left with a 57-64 loss on the road in Tampa, Florida.  

While sophomore guard Rori Harmon is back in Texas’ lineup, the Longhorns lost junior forward Taylor Jones to injury. Jones’ absence was clear on the court, as the Longhorns’ defense was without its third-ranked player in the Big 12 for blocks.

“To be honest with you, it’s been a prevailing deal with us where we’re not quite ready to play when the lights come on,” head coach Vic Schaefer said. “I think tonight we took a really long time to get locked in. We got punched and had a hard time answering.”   

Jones had not only been a supplier for defensive success, but also on the offensive side. She currently averages 10.3 points and 21.5 minutes per game and registered a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds during the team’s matchup against Princeton.      

A fast-paced first half initiated by South Florida kept Texas on its toes, with the Longhorns keeping a steady lead up until a second quarter switch. Efforts by South Florida’s 6-foot-1 junior guard Sammie Puisis brought the Bulls into a comfortable lead by the end of the first half, leaving Texas at a 33-42 deficit. 

“My teammates do a great job of finding me, so credit to them,” Puisis said in a post-game interview. “With our offense, I’m constantly moving, so I think it’s hard for defenders to constantly chase.” 

Puisis accumulated 19 points within the first half, with Harmon being the only Longhorn to reach double digits for the half.

“We had some bad decisions early in the game with some turnovers, and they came out running,” head coach Vic Schaefer said. “We’re just not running at the same pace.”  

A small but thundering crowd attempted to boost spirits in the Moody Center during the second half, assisting the Longhorns in keeping the Bulls at a 45.8% field goal percentage.   

Sophomore forward Aaliyah Moore’s and graduate student guard Shaylee Gonzales’ layups brought Texas back into the lead for the first time since the first quarter. 

The fourth quarter became a tight battle for the lead, with each team inching one point above the other for the remaining six minutes. With South Florida nursing a 1-point lead with only 45 seconds on the clock, fans were on the edge of their seats in anticipation after witnessing 12 lead changes throughout the entire game.    

However, a 3-pointer from Puisis and two successful free throws by senior guard Elena Tsineke secured the win for the Bulls.

With the loss, the Longhorns fall back under .500 on the season at 3–4. Texas will return to the Moody Center to face Southern University on Sunday in hopes of getting back in the win column.

“We’ve got to learn the lesson. You can’t just keep beating your head into the wall and say we got to change it and we don’t,” Schaefer said. “At some point you have to change, and that’s hard to get past.”