In the postseason, style points and statement victories don’t matter. A win is a win, and Texas will take a victory in any scrappy way it can. Head coach Karen Aston only has one thing on her mind: “Survive and advance.”
Saturday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, the Longhorns followed their M.O. for yet another pull-a-rabbit-out-of-a-hat 66-64 victory after thoroughly ensuring fans got their money’s worth.
Texas got off to an uncharacteristically slow start, even for a team which hasn’t necessarily had more than a game-to-game identity. Texas trailed early in the game, by as many as seven points in the first half, as it struggled with the Horned Frogs for the second time in five days.
“We’re obviously a work in progress,” Aston said. “I hate to say that in March, but we do have problems in the middle of games. It was one of those games where you really wanted (your team) to know that TCU was going to have a real sense of urgency.”
From the opening tip, the two teams made it apparent that the postseason would not alter their game plans for each other. TCU took their analytical gunslinger approach of firing away from the 3-point line, the Frogs finished 9-of-26 from three, while Texas relied heavily on their explosive guard combo of Sug Sutton and Danni Williams.
After a physical and tenacious battle between through three quarters to leave the game tied at 44 going into the final period, Williams and Sutton took over.
Williams showed flashes of the player fans saw midway through Big 12 play. The player that shined in spotlight moments such as her unbelievable fourth quarter against No. 1 Baylor in early February, where she unveiled her new Harden-esque left-handed stepback from three.
But Saturday, she rarely needed it. In fact, the sharpshooting graduate transfer only hit two 3-pointers on the night but finished with a team-high 20 points after being held to only two points against TCU in their Tuesday matchup.
“We played (the Frogs) on Tuesday, and (they) guarded me really well, so I just had to go back and look at the film,” Williams said. “I know that people are going to come at me, so (driving) is kind of how I got myself going.”
The play of the game, however, undoubtedly went to Sutton, who forced a crucial turnover and transition layup to extend the Texas lead to four with under a minute remaining.
“We huddled up before we got on the court. The energy just went through me, and I told myself ‘I’m going to get a steal,’” Sutton said with a slight infliction of emotion in her voice. “I just fed off of the team’s energy, and I did what I needed to do.”
After TCU’s Lauren Heard missed on an opportunity to tie the game at the free throw line with 3.6 seconds left, TCU fouled Williams, who subsequently missed one of her two free throws to extend the lead to two.
But the point was moot, as TCU missed their opportunity to tie the game with a full-court layup as time expired.
Although the Longhorns managed to dodge getting pricked by the Horned Frogs, this does not guarantee their safety. Their next matchup will be Sunday against Iowa State — a team they split the season series with.
“It’s a competition now,” Aston said. “Every day.”