The Longhorns are banged up, emotionally and physically.
Coming off a disastrous trip to Manhattan, Kansas, the eleventh-ranked Longhorns held an average scoring margin in Big 12 play of just plus-three points.
“I think that what we realized about ourselves is that we’re a little bit of a roller coaster team, that we kind of play in spurts,” head coach Karen Aston said.
Conference play has been a dogfight for Texas, to say the least, and TCU wasn’t about to let Exes weekend change that in Saturday’s 73-67 Longhorn victory.
“‘One more’ is definitely our motto,” Aston said. “But if I would’ve known how many times I was going to say, ‘Stay the course.’ That might have been our hashtag this year.
Early on, Texas needed that same patience and persistence.
A physical and aggressive TCU squad played like it was hungry for its first ever win in Austin, previously going 0-20.
After the first quarter, it looked like it just might happen.
Seldom was a Texas shot left uncontested or an orange-and-white jersey left untouched on a rebound as TCU’s pesky defense and physicality proved to be a problem in the early going, although the Longhorns managed a string of defensive stops to build a seven-point lead at halftime.
Coming out of the locker room, Texas looked re-energized and immediately sparked a quick 7-2 run accordingly. As the two teams exchanged second-half baskets, the Horns heated up. Texas hit four straight shots, including three 3-pointers — two of which came from Texas bigs Charli Collier and Joyner Holmes — to score 11 points in just over three minutes.
But again, the Frogs retaliated, and a full-court buzzer-beating layup by Jayde Woods kept the game within reach, trimming the Texas lead to nine points going into the final quarter.
As the Frogs cut the deficit down to just one point in the fourth, this game had a feeling of déjà vu. For the Longhorns’ second consecutive home game, their opponent cut a double-digit deficit to one possession in the fourth quarter.
“It’s the lapses that we have in the middle of games where we could be putting a team away,” Aston said. “That’s our demon right now is that we can’t seem to stick the knife in. The dog mentality is hard to teach. If you have a few of those it creates a contagious environment.”
As the back-and-forth madness ensued, Holmes, who finished with a season-high 17 points, and Collier took over late. The Texas bigs combined for the Longhorns last seven points and several crucial defensive stops including an emphatic block by Collier to preserve a four-point Texas lead with 1:43 left.
“My objective was to face-guard (Amy Okonkwo), so that was the first thing I wanted to do,” Collier said. “When I did that, my offense came. I didn’t try to do anything that I couldn’t do. Props to Sug (Sutton), she got me most of my points with her assists.”
After a frantic exchange of turnovers and missed shots, Sutton stole the ball from Lauren Heard to preserve a three-point lead with 40 seconds remaining.
Seconds later, a Destiny Littleton free throw essentially sealed the Texas victory, as the Longhorns were able to hang on for the win.
After coming so close to upsetting a ranked Texas team for the second straight year, TCU head coach Raegan Pebley said, “We might be disappointed, but we’re not discouraged, and that’s growth in our team.”
Texas will next take on Kansas on Wednesday at the Frank Erwin Center.