Longhorns must work to avoid being outscored in second half

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Junior center Imani McGee-Stafford finished the game with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Photo Credit: Ellyn Snider | Daily Texan Staff

Late in the second half against rival No. 24 Oklahoma Thursday night, No. 14 Texas once again found itself trying to pull out a late win.

With 13:49 left in the game, the Sooners held an 8-point lead, but the Longhorns erased the deficit on a 17-9 run to tie the game and send it into double overtime, in which they eventually prevailed 84-81. 

Head coach Karen Aston said she thought the team’s resilience was intrinsic to its victory.

“Obviously we’ve been through some adversity the last couple of weeks,” head coach Karen Aston said. “I thought we didn’t let [the game] get away from a mental perspective. This team had fight in it tonight. They never showed any signs that they were down on themselves.”

The Longhorns (15-4, 4-4) did have a lot to feel down about in the month of January, finishing this month with an even .500 record. The Longhorns went 2-4 in a six game stretch in the middle of the month to push them four games out of the conference lead.

Moving into the latter half of the conference schedule, the Longhorns will work to prevent opponents from outscoring them in the second half. In eight games this month, the team has only outscored three opponents in the second half. In all of its losses, Texas was outproduced by a total of 143-108.

Aston said the team learned more from those losses than its wins.

“In the last couple of games that we lost, we had certain points where we can reflect back and say, ‘These are things that we need to learn from,’” Aston said. “And tonight we took those and didn’t make the same mistakes again, which I really thought was the difference [tonight].”

The Longhorns also saw injuries in January, which included senior forward Nneka Enemkpali, who is out for the season with a torn ACL. The injuries have pushed inexperienced players straight into the mix, making bench points critical for the Longhorns as they enter the latter half of the conference schedule. So far this season, Texas has averaged nearly 23 points per conference game off
the bench.

Aston said everyone had an equal part in Texas’ success over the Sooners on Thursday. 

“I said all along from the very beginning this team has to be about [that],” Aston said. “This is by far one of the best team wins and team performances of the year.”

Junior center Imani McGee-Stafford, who scored 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, said she knows it is important to take every opportunity to claim a win. 

“All of the older people remember freshman year, and we remember how losses can spin out of control,” McGee-Stafford said. “So we knew that we needed a win and get our confidence back up.”

Despite their struggles, the Longhorns will still look forward to the next few months. Freshman guard Ariel Atkins said she hopes the team will build momentum off the adversity they’ve faced.

“If you noticed, after everything that happened we huddled together," Atkins said. "That was our way to bring each other back into the focus and focus on the team goal."