Head coach Karen Aston kept her head held high. No. 9 Texas had just battled with the top-ranked team in the country — and lost.
No. 1 UConn rolled past the Longhorns on Monday night just as they had done against every other opponent this season.
But the Longhorns posed the biggest speed bump in the Huskies’ path so far. Texas led for the majority of the game and came the closest of any team to defeating the Huskies this season, losing 75-71.
Aston now wants her team to bring the same amount of fight to every game.
“This was an opportunity to measure and see who we are and who we can be,” Aston said after the game. “You hope that this group of girls decides this is who they are all the time. And we have a really good thing if that’s what they decide.”
Texas (14–3, 5–1 Big 12) heads to Lubbock on Saturday to face Texas Tech. The Red Raiders (7–11, 1–6 Big 12) are fresh off their first conference win, defeating Kansas 68-56. The Longhorns will need to control the tempo to keep Texas Tech from earning its second Big 12 victory.
Aston likes her team to play at a breakneck pace to earn easy baskets in transition. Per Her Hoop Stats, the Longhorns are the fastest AP-ranked team in the nation, averaging 77.4 possessions per game this season.
Texas’ pedal-to-the-medal offense has been fueled by Aston’s willingness to use small-ball lineups in conference play. When the Longhorns need a boost offensively, Aston will move one of her bigger wings — either the 5-foot-11 senior Ariel Atkins or 6-foot sophomore Jada Underwood — to the power forward spot and bring in an extra guard off the bench.
The increase in shooters helps space the floor and open cutting lanes for perimeter players.
“I don’t try to change too much because I feel like it would be a mismatch for the other team, because I’m a guard playing the four position,” Atkins said. “But more often than not in our league, we have a lot of guards playing the four position. So, it’s kind of more so four guards on the floor than me being at the four.”
Using just one post, however, can leave teams vulnerable. Rebounding and rim protection usually suffer when smaller players share the floor.
“I think our defense is good, but it’s not where it can be,” senior guard Brooke McCarty said after the UConn game. “I know some games the guards get in the rebounding game and some games we don’t, but we’ve got to reward (our posts) just like they reward us by getting our rebounds.”
Texas Tech, meanwhile, likes to slow things down and run the offense through its bigs. The Red Raiders rank No. 191 in pace, and three of the team’s top-four scorers are post players. Senior center Jada Terry led the team with 16 points and eight rebounds in Wednesday’s victory over the Jayhawks.
Tempo will play a major role in Saturday’s outcome. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m.