Texas forfeits first half lead, falls to No. 6 Stanford

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Senior Mikaela Ruef and the Stanford Cardinal used a strong second half to avoid an upset at the hands of the Longhorns in Austin on Saturday. Despite a seven-point halftime lead, the Longhorns failed to keep the energy and effort up. 

Photo Credit: Joe Capraro | Daily Texan Staff

Jogging off the court with her teammates Saturday, sophomore center Imani McGee-Stafford headed to the locker room with 10 points and 10 rebounds. The double-double wasn’t anything new — she had recorded the stat 14 other times in her career. But this was only halftime, and the Longhorns were leading No. 6 Stanford.

But the Longhorns gave up the 37-30 halftime lead, falling to No. 6 Stanford 63-54 at home. The loss marked Texas’ sixth straight loss to the Cardinal, the first of head coach Karen Aston’s time at Texas. Aston said Texas showed a competitive spirit in the first half that the second half didn’t share.

“You’d look at our energy level and efficiency on offense, and it was completely different,” Aston said. “Simple things like how hard we were cutting to the basketball and our efficiency in the paint [were] diminished in the second half.”

Texas started the game with competitive play, juggling eight lead changes and five ties in the first half. The Longhorn defense denied all inside shooting, as the team outscored the Cardinal 10-0 in the paint and snatched a dominant 28 first-half rebounds to Stanford’s 17. 

While senior guard Chassidy Fussell led Texas in scoring with 11 first-half points, McGee-Stafford formed a defensive core. Blocking senior forward Chiney Ogwumike’s first shot, McGee-Stafford shut out the preseason unanimous All-American through the half with the exception of a single 3-point shot.

“[McGee-Stafford] is athletic, she’s quick, she changes people’s shots,” Ogwumike said. “It’s tough but most teams nowadays have a big girl so it poses a good challenge for us as players to expand our game.”

Ogwumike adjusted to the challenge in the second half, transforming four points and 2-for-11 first-half shooting to 14 points in 6-for-13 from the field. The Longhorns did not respond in stride, missing 24 of 29 shots in the half.

“It was sloppy, and our attention to detail went by the way side,” Aston said. “There were no turnovers in the first half, and, all of a sudden, we got lackadaisical and soft in the second half which led to easy buckets for them.”

Aston remains hopeful, describing the game as a measuring stick.

“If that’s where we’re at against the number six team in the country, then we’ve made some progress,” she said. “And we will definitely continue to make more.”

The Longhorns travel to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, for the Paradise Jam Tournament this weekend.