Tuesday night’s game didn’t put a damper on sophomore guard Brady Sanders’s 21st birthday, as the Longhorns came back to post a solid 62-50 victory over TCU.
“No one want [wants] to lose at home, and no one wants to lose on their birthday,” sophomore center Imani McGee-Stafford said. “So, not only did we want to protect the drum, but it’s [Sanders’] birthday and we wanted to send her home with the ‘W.’”
Despite the birthday celebration by the team, it was uncommonly quiet in the Frank Erwin Center; the only significant applause of the first half came when junior forward Nneka Enemkpali got back on her feet after taking a hard fall late in the first.
Crowd energy is an important motivating factor for the Longhorns and having minimal enthusiasm from the stands didn’t help Texas early. The Longhorns didn’t play well in the first half and trailed by seven at half to one of the Big 12’s worst teams.
But Texas knew this was a game they couldn’t afford to lose.
“Gotta protect the drum,” said McGee-Stafford, who grabbed a season-high 17 rebounds. “We’ve come this far. We’re not trying to give it up.”
It was a big game for redemption. Earlier this season, TCU beat Texas for the first time in series history. The Horned Frogs held Texas to its lowest shooting percentage during conference play — 30.4 percent — and it was the only game this season in which no Texas player recorded double-digit points.
Texas came out of the locker room running in the second half. Two free throws by Enemkpali were immediately followed by a layup from senior guard Chassidy Fussell. The crowd finally stood up and the sound of cheering filled the arena.
“I thought our team came out of the half and just decided that they were going to win the game on the defensive end and on the backboards,” head coach Karen Aston said.
Texas snagged 55 rebounds to TCU’s 29. The Longhorns weren’t as quick to the basket in the remainder of the second period. But, after junior guard Krystle Henderson’s three-pointer broke the Longhorns out of their deficit to put Texas up by two, the Longhorns calmed down and became more consistent in their shooting, leading to their 12-point win.