No. 22 Texas 101, Drake 80: Longhorns emerge from a short hiatus with points aplenty
Following an unexpected break and facing an unexpected opponent, Texas's women's basketball team returned to the court Friday night with a 101-80 win over Drake at the Erwin Center.
Five Longhorns finished with double-digit points in the game, which was UT's first since Dec. 9. The 22nd-ranked Longhorns improved to 5-1 with the victory.
Were the Longhorns rusty at all in the 21-point win?
"Not so much rusty, a little (winded)," UT guard Joanne Allen-Taylor said.
As recently as a week ago, Drake wasn't on Texas' radar. And the only Big 12 program that Drake was thinking about was an Iowa State team that it plays every year.
Texas, though, found itself with plenty of free time this week. Just hours before tipoff against Tennessee last Sunday, a postponement was announced due to contact tracing issues with the Longhorns. The next day, the Big 12 called off Thursday's scheduled Big 12 opener between Texas and Kansas, which was having problems of its own.
UT coach Vic Schaefer said there's a message board out there that's used for scheduling. Once Texas was cleared to play, the Longhorns started searching for a game.Texas initially tried to reschedule Tennessee. The Lady Vols, however, had already moved on and had added No. 15 Indiana.
So Texas and Drake began talking. A contract between was signed after the Bulldogs' game at South Dakota State on Tuesday night.
In Drake, Texas got a formidable foe. The Bulldogs reached the NCAA Tournament in 2017, 2018 and 2019. Drake was 22-8 record before the 2020 postseason was cut short. Drake also ended last season with the nation's 25th-best RPI. For comparison's sake, Texas went 19-11 and was slotted 18 RPI spots behind Drake.
"I wasn't interested in playing a lower Division I or a three-name directional school," Schaefer said. "We needed to play somebody good."
On Friday, Texas didn't appear rusty despite its nine-day layover. The Longhorns put up 33 points in the first quarter and had 59 by halftime.
That offensive outburst occurred despite Texas getting just two free throws from Charli Collier. Sophomore guard Celeste Taylor also was not in uniform because of a foot injury. Collier (25.0 ppg) and Taylor (13.4) were UT's leading scorers.
But after scoring 22 points over the first two quarters, Allen-Taylor entered halftime with a new career high. She knocked down nine free throws and six of her nine field goal attempts in the first half.
"They were double-teaming so much in the paint, so it really opened up so much for the guards," she said. "It was just my night tonight, but it could have been anybody's night."
Drake, which had scored 99 points against Minnesota and 97 against Iowa, kept the first-half score respectable with 44 points of its own. Texas then led by as many as 31 in the second half.
A basket by Lauren Ebo in the game's final minute helped UT hit the 100-point mark for the second time this season. Over the previous six years, Texas had three 100-point games.
In addition to 23 points, Allen-Taylor grabbed a career-best 10 rebounds. Texas also got considerable contributions from Audrey Warren (18 points), Collier (17), Ebo (14) and Kyra Lambert (11).
Defensively, Texas gave up 70 points for the first time this season.The Bulldogs made half of their 64 shots and distributed 18 assists. Texas also forced 21 turnovers and recorded a season-high 16 steals.
"I think we just need to keep working really hard in practice," Ebo said. "A lot of their points came from transition so I think we need to work on that."
Tip-ins: Next on the schedule for Texas is a trip to Kansas State on Monday. It will be UT's conference opener and first road game of the season. ... Ebo also had seven rebounds in her Longhorns debut with . A transfer from Penn State, Ebo received a waiver to play from the NCAA on Wednesday. ... Drake (2-4) was led by Maddie Monahan's 28 points. ... Schaefer said Taylor won't be available until after Christmas. Freshman forward DeYona Gaston, who sat with an undisclosed injury, should return to the team by Monday.