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Longhorns women's basketball team gears up for Kansas State after freeze

Myah Taylor
Austin American-Statesman
Texas' Charli Collier, pulling down a rebound against West Virginia on Feb. 6, helped out amid the freeze by paying for people's dinner at a pizzeria near campus.

Like millions of Texans this past week, UT women’s basketball coach Vic Schaefer spent several days making do.

He said he slept in a frigid hotel room Thursday night clad in a warmup suit and wrapped in blankets. Schaefer and his wife, Holly, lost power at their home last Sunday night when the weather trapped him and the Longhorns in Waco after a 60-35 loss to No. 7 Baylor. Icy road conditions extended the team’s 90-mile return trip to three hours, but Schaefer said he’s just glad they made it home.

Texas (14-6, 8-5 Big 12) was set to play TCU on Wednesday, but the game was postponed as historic winter weather continued to wreak havoc across the state. The team’s priorities shifted accordingly, and the coach worried about how his players would navigate the conditions.

“You go from the middle of conference season to ‘Hey, y’all good? You got food?’ ” Schaefer said.

Women’s preview:Texas vs. Kansas State

Basketball was not a main concern amid the crisis, but the coach said the players are excited to play Kansas State (6-13, 1-11 Big 12) Sunday, especially after a tough loss to the Bears.

When the teams played in December, UT beat the Wildcats 62-52. Schaefer said Kansas State has improved significantly since Texas made the trip up to Manhattan, Kan., and that star sophomore center Ayoka Lee will be a problem. Lee had nine points, four blocks and two rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter in the previous matchup.

Texas guard Celeste Taylor, center, battles for the ball with Kansas State guard Christianna Carr (43) and center Ayoka Lee (50) during an NCAA women?s college basketball game in Austin, Saturday, Feb., 22, 2020. [Stephen Spillman for Statesman]

The Longhorns returned to practice Friday and Schaefer to his own bed that evening. He said they met for about an hour Thursday just to “open up our lungs,” which he added weren’t so open after a stalled week. But the coach, who said he watched game film from his car in a Papa John’s parking lot during the freeze, hopes to use the recent adversity as a teaching moment.

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“This is real world; this is life,” Schaefer said. “It’s how you respond. That’s what it’s all about in my mind. How are we going to respond?”

Off the court, junior center Charli Collier responded to the disastrous week by giving back to the Austin community. The preseason National Player of the Year announced on her Twitter account Thursday that she would cover dinner for 50 people who ordered a personal pizza from Roppolo’s Pizzeria on Guadalupe Street.

“I choose to not complain about things but want to give thanks for everything,” Collier tweeted.

What Collier did is “unprecedented” for a student-athlete who was also struggling with the situation, he coach said.

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“Really proud of Charlie and just her thinking of others,” Schaefer said, commending her servant leadership. “ What a tremendous thing for her to do.”

The Longhorns will need the center’s leadership Sunday. Baylor held Collier to two points on just three shots. Schaefer said that stat line must improve for this matchup, so they’re working on how to get her more touches.

Success in this final stretch of Big 12 play won’t just depend on the center, though. Schaefer said execution is key, so that means the team can’t turn the ball over and must get on the boards, force turnovers and play aggressive defense.

With one of the best pressure defenses in the nation, Texas leads the Big 12 in turnovers forced per game. The Longhorns forced 34 turnovers in their last outing with the Wildcats.

“We got all the built-in excuses that we could possibly need. You go play bad tomorrow … you can blame it on whatever you want to blame it on,” Schaefer said. “ You know what? We’re going to find out what we’re made of.”