There is no doubt about it. The Texas women’s basketball team (17-11, 7-8) wants its fate to be in its own hands.
“This next game is one of our most important,” said junior post Ashley Gayle. “If we lose, we might be leaving our tournament selection bid in someone else’s hands. The stakes are high.”
Gayle, who is coming off one of her best offensive performances of the season, said that Texas will go to Stillwater to take on the Oklahoma State Cowgirls (15-13, 3-12) with a “do-or-die” attitude.
“Coach [Gail Goestenkors] has been stressing the importance of this game,” she said. “Our practices have to be just as intense as our games, and we have a big responsibility to make sure we execute. We just need to make sure we play our style of game.”
On Wednesday night Gayle scored 14 points and posted three blocks to move her season total to 104, setting the Texas single-season record — a record which she wrote her sophomore year. It helps that it was the first time in three games that she wasn’t in foul trouble.
“I think that this year for me has kind of been up and down,” she said.
“I may have lost my confidence during the middle of conference play, but it all finally clicked Wednesday. [Assistant coach Ronald Hughey] has been working me hard in practice, and has helped my game a lot.”
Better late than never. She said that to emulate Wednesday’s success, she will need to micromanage the finer points of her game.
“For Saturday’s game, it’s the little things that really count, and if I can focus on that, the rest of my game will open up,” Gayle said.
The Cowgirls are one of the conference’s worst teams. They sit second to last in the Big 12, but Gayle said that overlooking a trap game would be costly. For her, this game is going to be more about what Texas can do best, not on how to stop Oklahoma State’s strengths.
“I think they have great guards who can really push the ball,” she said. “But most importantly, we have to focus on our game. Lately we’ve been too concerned with what other teams are doing, but after the past few losses, we need to focus more on what we’re doing.”
Though they are in the bottom of the conference, their statistics would suggest otherwise. The Cowgirls are sixth in the league in terms of scoring offense and defense. Texas, on the other hand, is dead last in scoring defense. Texas makes up for their defensive woes with their potent offense, the fourth-best in the league.
But as every Big 12 coach will say, there is no tougher team in women’s college basketball. If the Longhorns plan on stretching their season, the momentum from a victory Saturday just may be the ticket they need to make that happen.
Texas at Oklahoma State
Time: 7 p.m.
Place: Gallagher-Iba Arena (Stillwater, Okla.)