Karen Aston, women’s basketball head coach, and the Longhorns know how to win a basketball game. They know how to beat ranked opponents, and they know how to outrebound, outscore, outplay and outlast conference and non-conference opponents alike.
But they haven’t figured out how to do it on the road.
Texas (13-6, 4-3 Big 12) has won 10 of its 11 home games this season, including four conference matches. But an unimpressive 1-4 road record reminds the team that it has yet to win a single conference away game.
“[Our first match against West Virginia] was a road game and when they got the momentum, that made the difference,” Aston said Jan. 15 after the Longhorns’ first game against the Jayhawks. “Just like the Oklahoma game made a difference here. When we gained momentum late in the game, the crowd was tremendous for us.”
In a rematch against West Virginia on Saturday, Texas redeemed an overtime loss from earlier in the season. Junior forward Nneka Enemkpali paced the Longhorns with a conference-high 21 rebounds and 15 points.
Aston said that “execution down the stretch” and maintaining play during final minutes of games will make or break remaining conference matchups. Texas has shown a knack for mastering those toss-ups at home but has continued strong on the road. The Longhorns dropped each road conference match by single-digit margins.
“Right now our team is a little more comfortable at home,” Aston said after Texas’ first season matchup with Kansas at the Frank Erwin Center.
Texas did not trail the Jayhawks that game and recorded leads as high as 17 points. The Longhorns shot 47.1 percent in the first half and forced nine turnovers in that period alone. Yet protecting the ball wasn’t a task restricted to just half the court as Texas grabbed 22 offensive rebounds throughout the match.
“Texas was aggressive, they got us in transition and they got us on the glass,” Kansas head coach Bonnie Henrickson said after that game. “When you regress with those, those are the most aggressive things you can do is go get opportunities in transition and offensive rebounds.”
Numerous Longhorns contributed to securing the win against Kansas. But sophomore center Imani McGee-Stafford led the team, scoring a career-high 24 points and grabbed nearly half the team’s boards. The Jayhawk defense had no answer.
“You have to get that [McGee-Stafford’s] head down and get more disruptive,” Henrickson said. “We have to be more active with her. We sat behind her.”
McGee-Stafford and the Longhorns will look to avoid any hints of their previous road woes as they aim to maintain the level of competition they showed the Jayhawks at home.
They still know how to outrebound, outscore and outplay teams. And they’ve done it against Kansas. Tuesday night, Texas needs to show Kansas that maybe — just maybe — there is some place like home.