Desperate for a win to keep their tournament hopes alive, the Longhorns got a much needed boost from an unusual source.
Sophomore forward Anne Marie Hartung, who had scored in double figures just seven times in her career heading into the game, had a career-high 17 points as Texas (14-10, 4-8 Big 12) bolstered its NCAA tournament resume with an impressive 69-53 win over Oklahoma State (13-8, 5-7 Big 12) at the Frank Erwin Center on Saturday night.
“It feels good to win,” Hartung said. “I think we want to continue this feeling. There is still pressure on us, but not as much now that we have won.”
Hartung, who has seen an increase in her minutes with Cokie Reed and Ashley Gayle out of the starting lineup, was finally able to take advantage of the extra playing time and deliver a stellar performance. To go with career-highs in scoring and minutes (34), Hartung led her team with eight rebounds, eight field goals and a field-goal percentage of 67.
“I still play the same role as I did coming off the bench, it’s just that now I’m in a starting role,” Hartung said. “I’ll just continue to do everything I have been. Yvonne [Anderson] and the guards did a good job of finding me. If I can keep scoring like this, that’s great, but if not, I’ll just find other ways to contribute.”
Hartung’s strong performance wasn’t the only difference for Texas in Saturday’s victory.
The Longhorns, who had struggled to take care of the ball during their four-game losing skid, forced 16 turnovers while coughing it up just eight times.
“The past few games, we’ve been giving teams too many extra possessions,” said senior guard Anderson, who had 18 points on the night. “We focused on that tonight and we made sure not to force the ball. It was just a matter of taking care of the ball and waiting until the opening was there.”
Texas was able to pull away early in the second half as the Longhorns hit six of their first seven shots, including a pair of 3-pointers from Chassidy Fussell, who led all scorers with 20 points.
“We came out with a different intensity today,” Anderson said. “The shots weren’t falling for us as much in the first half, but the intensity level was there. We felt we had enough to make a run and we did that at the start of the second half.”
Saturday’s win puts Texas in position to make a late season push for the NCAA tournament. With six games remaining, though, the Longhorns have little margin for error.
“We have looked big picture just to put it on the table,” said head coach Gail Goestenkors. “After that we broke it down game-by-game. There were a lot of games we felt like we could win, if we played the kind of basketball we are capable of playing. Tonight was the first night we were determined that we were going to show how good we could be. We are going to fight for everything, and we feel like we’re in control of our destiny.”
Printed on Monday, February 13, 2012 as: Hartung helps Longhorns overpower OU at home