A win is never a sure thing when your opponent comes in having won 2 of the last 4 national championships — even if those came at the Division II level.
Still, as head coach Karen Aston motioned for her players to call a timeout with 9:06 left in the fourth quarter, there was no mistaking at least a small semblance of panic in the building. Lubbock Christian opened the period on a 5-0 run to bring the game to within four points, but if a sense of unease was felt within the Texas huddle, they certainly didn’t show it.
“Just focus on what we’re doing, pay attention to detail, jump to the ball and don’t get caught in the moment,” senior guard Jada Underwood said of what was discussed in the timeout. “Basketball’s a game of ups and downs, and (LCU was) going up. Basically, we just had to be solid and get a couple stops.”
The Longhorns came out on a 11-0 run of their own after that timeout and coasted to an 83-73 win. Despite the overall command that Texas had on the game — the Lady Chaparrals never led — Monday night’s exhibition was by far the closest such game in Aston’s tenure.
“There’s no sense in me being overly critical, first of all,” Aston said about the close game. “I think it would be disrespectful to Lubbock Christian, who is a really good basketball team. We’re in a tough situation where we have kids that are trying sometimes not to foul, and that ends up being a worst-case scenario because they get caught late.”
Three Longhorns finished with at least four fouls; sophomore starting center Charli Collier — who fouled out, along with sophomore guard Shae Routt and Underwood, the latter of which played with four fouls in the second quarter due to a statistical confusion on the Longhorn bench.
“That hurt us, and that won’t happen again,” Aston said. “We just checked the book. That wasn’t right, and we let (Underwood) get four (fouls) in the first half. That’s just unacceptable. For a player, you can’t afford to have that.”
Texas took control early, opening the game on a 10-0 run, starting with the senior guard Lashann Higgs hitting a three-pointer just 12 seconds into the game.
The Longhorns used a 27-17 lead in the first quarter to capture momentum going into the second quarter.
“I thought we came out really hot, and that may have been a detriment to us, to be honest with you,” Aston said. “I think we thought those shots were going to fall the entire night. We took some quick shots that led into better offense for them than maybe we should’ve, but those are learning experiences for young players.”
Ultimately “learningexperiences for young players” was the theme of the night, as three returning Longhorns did not play: senior guard Sug Sutton and senior forward Joyner Holmes, as well as sophomore forward Audrey Warren. Freshman guard Celeste Taylor and Routt made their debuts on the floor for Texas, with the former getting the start to go along with seven points and three assists in 37 minutes.
Joanne Allen-Taylor, the sophomore guard who averaged just 1.1 points and 8.5 minutes per game last season, led the team with 24 points while never leaving the game.
“We’re still learning, and we’re young,” Allen-Taylor said. “So it was good to get that experience because they did play us the way we expected them to.”