In a rollercoaster season filled with countless injuries, inconsistent play, and transfer students, nothing has been guaranteed. Not even a game against the last-place team in the Big 12.
Going into Saturday afternoon, the Longhorns were coming off a game where head coach Karen Aston apologized to fans for the team’s poor offensive performance and lack of focus, despite the Longhorns winning by 19 points, their largest margin of victory in Big 12 play.
In Lubbock, it didn’t look like Texas regained its focus at all early on in their 78-71 victory.
The Red Raiders nearly shot the lights out in the first quarter, connecting on their first six 3-pointers of the game and led 27-16 after the first period.
“Texas Tech is trying to win basketball games. They’re tired of losing,” Aston said. “It’s a competitive league, I didn’t think we were very competitive in the first half.”
As the Longhorns scratched their heads searching for answers to Tech’s first quarter onslaught, Texas fans were left sweating bullets, again.
To make matters worse, the scrappy but invaluable Audrey Warren, who has played crucial minutes for Aston this season, was taken off the floor with concussion-like symptoms.
Unable to match Tech’s 3-point shooting in the first half, and with most of Aston’s “four-headed monster” of Jatarie White, Olamide Aborowa, Joyner Holmes and Charli Collier benched due to foul trouble, Destiny Littleton had her number called.
The sophomore exploded for 11 points in the second quarter to cut a once 14-point Raider lead down to five at halftime.
“I thought that the flurry that we had at the end of the second quarter probably saved us,” Aston said. “We found a group that provided some energy and tempo to the way that we played and gave us a little bit of breath.”
Texas seemed poised to make one of Aston’s signature third quarter runs. Coming out of halftime, the Longhorns appeared to have regained their focus.
Now revamped with the shot-making and lockdown defense they sought in the first half, the Longhorns erupted for an 11-to-2 run to help Texas take its first lead since the first quarter.
Using their newfound sense of focus and grit, the Texas lead grew to as many as six points in the third quarter before the Raiders retaliated, tying the game at 55 going into the fourth quarter.
With the Red Raiders 1–6 in conference play prior to today’s loss, and first-year head coach Marlene Stollings in search of a signature win, Tech retaliated relentlessly, going up by as many as five points with 6:37 left.
As the mayhem ensued, guard Danni Williams emerged and took control for the Longhorns down the stretch, scoring eight of her 16 points in the final period, including a layup to put the Longhorns up by five with just over a minute remaining.
“We’ve had a couple of games where we’ve experienced this back-and-forth,” Williams said. “I think that allowed us to stay together. I knew we needed a bucket, and I just had to go get one.”
While Texas will take any victory it can in Big 12 play, slow starts and close finishes with the two bottom-dwelling teams in the conference must raise some level of concern for Texas fans, with matchups against West Virginia, Oklahoma and Baylor over the next three games.
The Longhorns will take on West Virginia, a team they previously defeated 70-58, on Monday in Austin.