The Longhorns capped off a wacky Gulf Coast Showcase tournament with a 72-54 victory over the Fordham Rams on Sunday night, following a nail-biting victory over Quinnipiac and a triumphant blowout over Michigan.
Although the undersized Rams weren’t favored to win the game, they weren’t about to go down without a fight.
Fordham shot the lights out in the first quarter, shooting nearly 70 percent from the field with five three-pointers to start the game and jumping out to an early 20-14 lead over the Longhorns before Texas managed to establish a rhythm, but head coach Karen Aston had anticipated this, telling her players to “weather the storm.”
While Texas managed to steal back the lead thanks to an 8-2 run, redshirt sophomore Bre Cavanaugh beat the buzzer for the Rams to give Fordham a 23-22 lead at the conclusion of the first quarter. However, the Rams’ stellar shooting wouldn’t last forever.
In the second quarter, the Rams shot a mere 25 percent from the field and felt the size difference, getting outrebounded by a 12-3 margin. The rebounding, which allowed the Longhorns to withstand Fordham’s first quarter shooting barrage, spurred Texas into a second quarter lead, complemented by some tenacious defense.
“We kind of struggled with rebounding throughout this whole tournament, we knew everybody was tired and dragging, and we had to find out ‘one more.’ Our one more was rebounding,” said point guard Sug Sutton, who pulled in seven boards of her own.
Texas forced nine first-half turnovers by switching between man and zone defense and capitalized on their opportunities, crafting 10 points off of Fordham’s mistakes and allowing only five second-quarter points to take a 38-29 lead into the locker room at the half.
While the Rams managed to keep pace with Texas in the third and even trim the lead by two points by the end of the quarter, the Longhorns’ firepower proved to be too much for Fordham as the Horns imposed their will behind seven second-half offensive rebounds and 18 free throw attempts, pushing Texas to a 72-54 victory. With Lashann Higgs out of commission for the championship game following an injury against Quinnipiac, the pressure mounted on Sutton to rise to the occasion.
Sutton did just that, scoring a career-high 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field, including a pair of three-pointers to go along with seven rebounds and three assists on her way to being named tournament MVP.
“I put (the team) on my back for this tournament when (Higgs went down),” Sutton said. “I feel more comfortable doing whatever I need to do for this team.”
Clearly thrilled by the fact Texas football is back in the Big 12 Championship, Aston continued her praise of Sutton and said, “She’s taking ownership of the quarterback position.”
“It’s really obvious that Sug stepped forward this weekend as the leader of our team,” Aston said.
Now, while the Longhorns fly back to Austin victorious, they’ll have some much needed time off before their 11 a.m. game Wednesday against UTSA at the Frank Erwin Center.
“(The tournament) was really tough on our bodies,” Sutton said. “I’m just so proud of this team. It was tough on our bodies, but we got through it.”