While many Texas students spent the holiday break enjoying time away from their daily routines on the 40 Acres, the Longhorns were still hard at work trying to further boost their status as a national contender. Despite early success, their conference losses ensured that their holiday was not entirely merry.
After a loss to Tennessee in mid-December, the Longhorns turned their fortunes around by sweeping the Basketball Travelers Invitational Classic in Las Vegas.
The Longhorns (11-6, 0-3) beat SMU in a game won by the continued dominance of freshman Chassidy Fussell. Her 14 points marked her seventh double-digit scoring effort of the season to go along with a career-high six assists.
Despite the victory, head coach Gail Goestenkors was unhappy with the early effort of her team, perhaps foreshadowing the problems that have kept them at the bottom of the Big 12 standings.
“I said, ‘When we’re not in transition, we’re not a very good team,’” Goestenkors told her team at halftime against SMU. “That’s when we turn the ball over. When we’re up tempo and attacking, we’re tougher to defend and we do a better job of taking care of the ball.”
They won the tournament with successive wins over the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and Southern Florida.
Texas continued to trounce lesser opponents heading into the end of December with wins over Cincinnati, San Diego and Sam Houston. But as good as 2010 had been to Texas, the new year resolved itself with a series of crushing defeats against conference foes.
The Longhorns opened conference play against Missouri with an 85-80 overtime loss. The loss came as a surprise to the team as they commanded the game early but blew a 12-point lead in the final four minutes. Last season, Missouri earned just two conference victories and sat at the bottom of the conference rankings.
“When we were up 12, I thought the game was pretty much over,” Goestenkors said. “We did just about everything you could wrong.”
Perhaps it was the collective hangover of the Missouri loss or simply Brittney Griner’s imposing presence, but Texas fell flat in its second conference game against Baylor at home.
Fussell’s career-high 25 points were overshadowed by Griner’s milestone of reaching 1,000 points in 51 games.
On Sunday, the Longhorns had a chance to climb from the gutter but only found themselves in a darker hole. Despite playing an extremely strong defensive game, the Longhorns still found a way to lose to the No. 14 Oklahoma Sooners.
The Sooners blew an 11-point lead in the second half, shot just 31 percent, went 3 of 21 on 3-pointers and were out-rebounded 56-45. However, just as Goestenkors predicted would be their downfall, turnovers and a lack of transition led to the Longhorns’ demise. The Sooners forced 23 Texas turnovers, went 20 of 25 from the free-throw line.
It was another chance blown by the Longhorns who are at a low in their program’s history. Last year, Texas went 10-6 in conference play. With already half as many losses in the Big 12 this year as they had last year, Texas has a lot of kinks to undo if it wants to regain its top-25 status.
“I’m just extremely disappointed,” Goestenkors said. “We have to start playing smarter basketball.”