Midway through the second quarter, Destiny Littleton split a double team and crafted her way across half-court.
She hesitated for a moment at the three-point line, caught her defender off-guard and drove to the basket for an attempted floater. It was one of only a few bright spots for the Longhorns up to that point in the game, but she was immediately called for an offensive foul.
It re-emphasized a common theme for the Longhorns on Sunday afternoon: even when things were looking up, Texas just couldn’t catch a break in their 67-49 defeat against Mississippi State.
But the Longhorns’ struggles revolved around more than just bad luck. The Bulldogs dominated the paint, the turnover battle, and the offensive glass — the three things Mississippi State head coach Vic Schaefer described as the formula for winning on the road.
The Bulldogs, who held the Longhorns to their lowest point total since February 2016, commanding all three categories by causing 22 turnovers, outrebounding Texas, 35-30, and outscoring the Horns, 48-28, in the paint.
“They came out of the gates and punched pretty hard,” Karen Aston said after the game. “They kept us from getting into any type of offensive rhythm at all. Their pressure and their ability to disrupt our offense kept us from getting any kind of paint touches.”
While Texas was able to hang with Mississippi State to start the game, a quick 10-0 run to end the first quarter gave the Bulldogs the slight separation they needed to go up 18-9.
The second quarter didn’t fare much better for the Horns, as the Bulldogs dominated the paint to outscore Texas 28-8 in the first half.
But Texas didn’t help its size problem in many other areas, committing 14 first-half turnovers in addition to being out-hustled for loose balls on numerous occasions.
“There were so many times tonight that we just stood there and watched Mississippi State go get the ball, and honestly that’s not even indicative of one of my teams,” Aston said. “I’ve never had teams that struggled to play hard.”
Guard Sug Sutton, who had a team-high 16 points and five assists, was equally critical of the team’s lack of effort.
“It’s all about effort right now,” Sutton said. “In my opinion, we aren’t giving enough effort. In two months, I hope that we’re playing as a team and giving effort every possession. That’s the team we need to be in two months, and going into the future I think we will be that type of team.”
Center Jatarie White, who was given the literal tall task of defending Mississippi State’s Teaira McCowan, struggled to make her presence felt in any way. White’s usually imposing presence on the glass was wiped away by McCowan, who held White to only two rebounds for the game.
“She’s just a really physical girl,” White said of McCowan, who set the total career rebounding mark for Mississippi State on Sunday. “She’s a handful but I think that she’s a really good player.”
The Longhorns face another tall task Sunday when they welcome perennial powerhouse Tennessee to the Frank Erwin Center for their second matchup of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Tip-off is set for 12 p.m.