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Texas 59, Kansas State 48: It wasn't pretty, but Horns will take the win

Texas' Charli Collier pulls down a rebound against Kansas State players Ashley Ray and Emilee Ebert during the first half of Sunday's Longhorns win. Collier scored 21 points and and snagged 14 rebounds.

Vic Schaefer shrugged out of his suit jacket early in the second quarter during Sunday's matchup against Kansas State, and maybe that's because the Wildcats brought the heat all afternoon.

His mask sliding up and down his face, Texas' head coach looked exasperated for much of the game, while the Longhorns looked sluggish after a week of wacky weather that knocked routines off course, as well as power and water out of Austin-area homes.

“We didn’t have access to the gym, obviously. Couldn’t get on the road. A lot of us were in our rooms just doing homework or watching TV,” junior center Charli Collier said. “It really was no motion at all from any of us.”

But Schaefer said there would be no space for excuses. Texas (15-6, 9-5 Big 12) shot 2-for-14 from the field and picked up five fouls in the first quarter, a rough start for any time, unprecedented or not. Still, his squad left the Erwin Center with a 59-48 win.

“They just make you really play ugly, and I thought we just grinded our way through the day,” Schaefer said.

Once Schaefer began to peel off extra layers, Kansas State (6-14, 1-12) led 19-8. Then the Longhorns guards started to show some signs of life as the Wildcats fell into a scoring drought. A couple of 3-point scores from Kyra Lambert and Celeste Taylor plus a nice jumper from Audrey Warren lifted Texas to within three. Freshman guard Ashley Chevalier ramped up the defense with two steals.

Texas' Audrey Warren collides with Kansas State's Jada Moore during Sunday's Texas win at the Erwin Center.

Just as Schaefer predicted, turnovers made all the difference. The Longhorns outscored Kansas State 21-8 in the second quarter. Nineteen of those points came from takeaways, and the Wildcats gifted UT with eight. That coupled with better rebounding and shooting (56.3%) was enough to give the Longhorns a 29-25 lead, their first of the game, before heading to the locker room at the half.

“Overall defensively, we’ve been working a lot on being in help, being in the right spot,” Taylor said. “We’re definitely getting a lot better, and it’s a lot of fun.”

High-pressure defense continued in the third quarter. Kansas State turned the ball over seven more times and the Longhorns capitalized by scoring 10 points off the takeaways. Yet, even as Texas began to take a bit more control of the game, the Wildcats, down 43-34 at the end of the third quarter, managed to stay afloat.

They continued to fight hard in the fourth, keeping the score close. But as the minutes dwindled, the Longhorns had their number. Breakout junior guard JoAnne Allen-Taylor scored five of her seven points in the second half of the fourth quarter and Collier, who scored 21 points and and snagged 14 rebounds, finished off her day with a monster layup that gave Texas the 57-47 lead with 1:33 to go.

Texas' Celeste Taylor gets an open shot during Sunday's win over Kansas State.

While Collier scored the brunt of UT’s points, guard play propelled the team further. Taylor scored 13 and made some noise on defense with four steals. Lambert’s eight points proved crucial.

After last week's loss at Baylor, Texas is back in the win column, but the victory, much like the past week, wasn’t pretty by any means. That’s just how it goes sometimes, Schaefer said, but COVID-19 and wild weather considered, he’ll take an ugly win.

“I’m proud of them,” he said. “It’s hard to do what these kids are doing. It’s really a challenge.”