Finally, a reason to celebrate.
Reeling after a nine-game losing streak, the Longhorns (8-11, 1-7 Big 12) stomped Kansas State (12-8, 3-5 Big 12), 59-40, Saturday at the Frank Erwin Center for their first conference victory of the season.
Led by two of its young leaders, Nneka Enemkpali and Imani McGee-Stafford, Texas’ win against its Big 12 foe brought it to eight wins on the season and gave it a spark of confidence going into the last third of its season.
Sophomore forward Enemkpali recorded her ninth double-double of the season, leading the Longhorns with 20 points and 16 rebounds. McGee-Stafford was just as impressive with 18 points and 11 rebounds, marking her seventh double-double of the season.
“It was sort of like the Red Sea had parted and any shot those two wanted, by and large, they got,” Kansas State coach Deb Patterson said. “Once they felt like they could score and they were going to get those touches, they really capitalized.”
Although Kansas State got out to a nine point lead midway through the first half, Texas pressured its opponent to keep the game close. With just over 30 seconds left in the half, junior Chassidy Fussell brought her team to within two points of the Wildcats where it stayed at 24-26 going into halftime.
Texas dominated the second half, however, outscoring the Wildcats 35-14. Kansas State, after opening up the game with hot shooting, missed 13 of its next 16 three-point attempts.
“Late in the first half, we talked about picking up our pressure on the basketball,” head coach Karen Aston said. “Initially we thought we had to play a little bit safe to guard penetration, but once they realized they could put pressure on the ball and extend their defense a little bit more, they carried that over in the second half really well.”
Another advantage the Longhorns held over their visitors from Manhattan was height. McGee-Stafford came in as Texas’ tallest player at 6 feet 7 inches while Kansas State’s tallest player was six inches under her at 6 feet 1 inch. Texas outrebounded its opponent 47-26 while also outscoring them 34-10 in the paint.
“I thought they [Longhorns] were terrific from the very get go,” Aston said. “Establishing themselves in the paint. They worked harder longer. They have had games were they worked hard and have done some good things, but this time it was a complete game.”
After losing multiple close games in such a competitive conference, Texas was able to complete a full game of poised team play.
“It [the win] means a lot,” Aston said. “I don’t want to discount that at all because they have been trying and it’s not like we weren’t close in some games. I thought we played well at Iowa State, we just didn’t get the win.”