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No. 21 Texas 79, Kansas 72: Tandem of Collier and Taylor leads UT back into the win column

Texas guard Celeste Taylor (0) passes the ball during a game against Kansas at the Erwin Center on Jan. 14, 2021.

For the Texas Longhorns on Thursday night, 35 plus zero was enough for a win.

Charli Collier, who wears the No. 35 jersey, and Celeste Taylor, the only Longhorn to ever don the No. 0, accounted for 64.6% of UT's points in a win over Kansas. Those 51 points guided Texas to a 79-72 victory at the Erwin Center.

With the win, Texas successfully responded to a 34-point loss at West Virginia this past weekend. Ranked 21st in the Associated Press' poll, Texas is now 3-1 in Big 12 play.

Said Taylor: "Everybody was fired up to go because we knew that we're a better team than what we displayed the previous game." 

While battling Kansas in an empty arena on Thursday, Texas (9-2) split its first five baskets evenly among its five starters. Collier and Taylor were the last of those starters to score. But that duo quickly began to contribute more on offense.

Collier scored three times within a 77-second spurt in the opening quarter, but both she and Taylor did the bulk of their damage in the second session. Taylor scored 10 points over those 10 minutes. Collier added seven points. They combined for three 3-pointers.

By themselves, Collier and Taylor were only outscored 18-17 by Kansas in the second quarter. Texas got additional baskets from Lauren Ebo and DeYona Gaston during the session, though. UT then took a 44-38 lead into halftime.

In the third quarter, Collier and Taylor were responsible for all but two of UT's 18 points. Taylor was shutout in the final frame, but Kansas never got closer than five points as four Longhorns scored at least four points.

Texas coach Vic Schaefer said in his postgame press conference that "anytime you win, you have to be happy about that." He did point to UT's defensive effort — the Longhorns allowed 46 points in the paint and only drew three charges — as an area the team needs to address.

"We're still young, we're still inexperienced and we still lack some maturity," Schaefer said. "It is what it is. We've got to deal with that and coach better and teach better."

Collier led the Longhorns with her 28 points and 14 rebounds. The All-American candidate entered the game with six double-doubles, which was the third-best total in the Big 12.

Taylor finished with 23 points. Schaefer said Taylor rolled her ankle at some point in the game, but she still grabbed five rebounds and contributed three assists and a steal. 

The most-noticeable statistic in the box score for Taylor was the 40 minutes she played. That was a career-high workload for the sophomore guard. Those 40 minutes were also recorded in Taylor's third game back from a three-game break to rest an ailing foot.

"I felt great out there," Taylor said. "I love playing basketball, it's my passion. Just being out there with my teammates and competing, I missed it."

Last season, Taylor was voted onto the Big 12's all-freshman team. Thursday marked her second 20-point game of the season.

"When Celeste plays how Celeste plays, we're going to win a lot of games," Collier said. "Having Celeste playing the way that she did tonight, if she continues to do that, we're going to win a lot of games. We're happy to have her."

Kansas (5-3, 1-1 Big 12) was playing for the first time since Dec. 29. The Jayhawks were led by Holly Kersgieter's 20 points

Tip-ins: UT point guard Kyra Lambert had six assists against only one turnover. Texas, which had 20 turnovers in the West Virginia game, gave away the basketball nine times on Thursday. ... Texas junior Audrey Warren (concussion protocol) missed her fourth straight game. ... Texas will travel to Texas Tech on Sunday afternoon.