Defense helps Longhorns outlast Mountaineers

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Sophomore guard Lashann Higgs escapes defenders during No. 12 Texas’ 69-54 victory over the No. 22 Mountaineers on Sunday at the Frank Erwin Center. Higgs recorded 10 points and three steals for the Longhorns.
Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

The first quarter was quiet, but a slow start didn’t stop the surging Longhorns.

No. 12 Texas (16–4, 10–0 Big 12) defeated No. 22 West Virginia (16–6, 4–6 Big 12) 69-54 Sunday night in a defensive battle.

After a low-scoring first quarter, sophomore guard Lashann Higgs and senior center Kelsey Lang gave Texas the spark it needed to secure its 14th-straight victory and season sweep of the Mountaineers. 

“I thought our defense was really good today,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said. “This was a typical Big 12 battle. We knew it would be a defensive battle and it was. I just thought we really, really played hard today.”

Higgs and Lang hustled on both ends of the court to keep the Longhorns in control. The duo accounted for 21 of Texas’ 30 first-half points. Higgs’ three steals highlighted a supreme defensive performance from the Longhorns and despite early offensive struggles, the Longhorns carried a 30-26 lead into the half. 

“Lashann’s contributions, specifically in the first half, were tremendous,” Aston said. “Her energy and ability to make plays defensively for us was giant. We’re finding different people that are stepping up in situations of games that keep us afloat.”

Higgs, who is averaging 11 points for the Longhorns over the past six contests, capped a strong performance against the Mountaineers with 10 points and three steals. Higgs dedicates her recent prowess to increased preparation in practices.

“I’m paying more attention to details now,” Higgs said. “I’m not running all over the place like I used to. I guess it starts in practice so I try to take practice a little more seriously now.”  

As the second half rolled around, junior guard Brooke McCarty came alive. The junior guard finished with 15 points on 6-11 shooting. 

The Mountaineers began to creep back into the game, but the Longhorns crushed all hopes of a comeback as they started the final quarter with a 10-0 run.

McCarty drilled back-to back triples to give Texas a 54-45 edge with 8:11 remaining, and the Erwin Center erupted. McCarty’s shooting heroics early in the fourth quarter ignited the Longhorns to put the finishing touches on the Mountaineers.

“I think we all feed off of each other,” McCarty said. “Anytime someone scores we’re all really hyped, so that kind of lifted the atmosphere a little bit and getting everybody else involved kind of kept it going.” 

McCarty, who leads the Longhorns in scoring, finished the game with three makes from beyond the arc, bringing her within three three-pointers of moving into seventh place on Texas’ all-time three-point makes list.

Freshman forward Joyner Holmes overcame early foul trouble to join Higgs, Lang and McCarty in double figures. Holmes finished with 10 points and seven boards.

The Longhorns travel to Stillwater, Oklahoma, to take on Oklahoma State on Wednesday at 7 p.m.