Now tied for second with TCU in the Big 12 standings, the Texas women’s basketball team will seek another conference victory when it travels to Norman, Oklahoma, for Tuesday’s matchup against rival Oklahoma.
In the 40-year history of the women’s basketball rivalry between the two schools, the Longhorns have bested the Sooners 33 times, and Texas has won in each of the teams’ last four meetings.
However, history won’t matter when the Longhorns tip off at Lloyd Noble Center. Even though Texas is riding a four-game winning streak and Oklahoma has recently dropped its third straight game, the parity in the Big 12 this season has made most contests competitive and unpredictable.
“I think we’re seeing some teams that traditionally were used to getting into the NCAA Tournament that didn’t get in last year,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said. “I think we’re just seeing a sense of urgency with more teams across the board.”
The Sooners fit the profile Aston referenced. Oklahoma missed the NCAA Tournament last year for the first time since 1999 after finishing 8–22 overall and 4–14 in conference. Currently 10–9, they’ve improved their record from last season but are still a far cry away from their winning résumé over the last two decades.
While Aston’s squad has excelled in conference play so far, there have been struggles, too. In the early stretch of the season, the Longhorns were blown out at home by Arizona and lost to the University of South Florida on the road and the Rainbow Warriors at a tournament in Hawaii.
But as Kansas head coach Brandon Schneider said last Wednesday after losing to Texas, the coaches make a difference in the Big 12.
“Why is it so competitive?” Schneider said. “Because there are great players in this league, and there’s fantastic coaches, so it’s going to be really competitive night in and night out.”
Even with the fickle nature of the Big 12, both teams boast outstanding veteran coaches. After defeating Oklahoma State in Stillwater over the weekend, Aston picked up her career 279th win and has, in eight seasons, reinstated Texas women’s basketball as among the nation’s elite. Oklahoma head coach Sherri Coale has won six Big 12 regular season titles and four Big 12 postseason titles since taking over in 1996.
But the Longhorns will ultimately have to execute, play a complete game and stop turning the ball over. Stellar 3-point shooting from sophomore center Charli Collier and leadership from senior point guard Sug Sutton pulled Texas out of a hole at Oklahoma State, but the team will have to take care of the ball better moving forward, especially against a historic rival in a hostile environment.
With a highly ranked Baylor team coming to Austin on Friday night, the matchup in Norman should test Texas’ focus on the present. According to Aston, history, wins and losses mean little in the Big 12 right now.
“Forget it,” Aston said after Texas blew out Texas Tech on Jan. 15. “You can’t let one loss turn into two back to back, and you can’t let a win cause you to relax and let your guard down … if we don’t get in that mix of teams that are really starving, then we’re going to find ourselves on the outside looking in.”