With final exams wrapping up, the Texas women’s basketball team faces another kind of final — its last major non-conference test of the season before Big 12 play begins.
Yes, Tennessee is in town.
Both the Longhorns (2-4) and Lady Vols (4-3) are in dire need of a victory Sunday at the Erwin Center before each embark on their respective conference schedules. The Lady Vols are uncharacteristically unranked; No. 17 Texas is 0-4 against teams that are ranked.
“More than anything, the rivalry is a tradition,” Texas coach Karen Aston said. “Both will tell you they have other rivals, too, but it’s a game you always circle the calendar for.”
Aston described the matchup as “another measuring stick game” for a young team looking for a shot of confidence.
On Friday, the fifth-year Longhorns coach answered various questions about her the game, her players and the outlook for the near future.
Have you seen progress in practice this week?
We’ve had two of our freshmen take some strides this week. The biggest thing we accomplished was seeing Jada Underwood and Sug Sutton take a few baby steps this week. That’s good because with Ariel (Atkins) being questionable (concussion protocol), it’s a big thing. It’s about our guard depth. I expected our guard depth to be a factor this year and it hasn’t been because of kids coming off of injuries, slow progress, all of that. The more those two develop, it’s going to bode well for our team.
What kind of baby steps?
Most mental. Just being able to go to the next play when things are not going good. That’s hard for a freshman. They think the world’s coming to an end when they make a mistake. … As freshmen, sometimes they take a deep breath after the first semester and they’re able to understand a little bit better and slow their brains down.
What will this game tell you about your team?
You always see where you’re at. Did you compete against Tennessee? Did you beat them? They’re always a team that you challenge yourself against. That’s not any different now.
This will be the first Tennessee-Texas game since Pat Summitt died in June. How does that change things?
It’s tough to watch film of them and not see her presence on that team. She had such a remarkable impact on the women’s game. Every coach who has grown up in this profession will tell you Pat Summitt had an impact on their lives. For her not to be here anymore, it’s extremely bittersweet. Pat and Jody (Conradt) played a big part in establishing the Texas and Tennessee rivalry.
What would a victory mean for you?
It would be a big win for us. A confidence win. I hope we have some carryover on some things we need to be better at. That’s really the big piece for us. Are we starting to figure out some stuff? There have been some little things that have made the difference between winning and losing against these good teams. If we can do that, that’s what’s going to springboard the team.
What concerns you most about the Lady Vols?
They’re long and athletic and they can create havoc. One of the problems we have to clean up is our turnovers. If you’re not careful, that’s a team that can steal some possessions. We have to a lot more detailed in what we’re doing and not hand them possessions.