In a win at No. 17 Texas A&M, No. 15 Texas tries to answer if it is 'really that monster'
COLLEGE STATION — At a media availability Friday, Vic Schaefer asked aloud if he was coaching a monster.
Not too long ago, Texas had caught the country's attention with an upset of No. 3 Stanford. But since knocking off the NCAA's defending champion Nov. 14, Texas had lost in overtime at Tennessee and had not been overly impressive in wins against overmatched opponents such as Cal State-Northridge and Jackson State. Ranked 12th in The Associated Press' poll after the Stanford win, Texas slipped to 14th after the loss to Tennessee and to 15th last Monday.
On Friday, Schaefer wondered aloud if the Longhorns were "really that monster (that beat Stanford)? Are we really ready to be that team?"
Two days later, Aliyah Matharu scored 26 points to lead the Longhorns to a 76-60 win at No. 17 Texas A&M. The 16-point win in Reed Arena didn't completely answer Schaefer's question — three of his players sat out with injuries — but he said, "I think we grew up a little bit today.
"Today's team, we're not the same team, at least today, that went to Tennessee and blew it," Schaefer said. "I'm hoping that we've developed a little toughness, resilience. Today they just weren't going to be denied."
Playing in front of an announced crowd of 7,100 fans — most of whom were whooping loudly and sawing ’em off — Texas (6-1) opened the game flat. Destiny Pitts hit three early 3-pointers, the last of which gave A&M an 11-3 lead four minutes into the game.
Texas, though, fought back with forward DeYona Gaston leading the charge. By the time Rori Harmon hit a 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter, UT led 20-13. The Longhorns scored the first seven points of the second quarter, and A&M failed to get closer than six points the rest of the way.
"We've been in that situation before," Harmon said. "I would say in Tennessee. We have to learn from those types of situations. We played hard in Tennessee, but we did not execute the correct way. And (A&M) is one team that you can't do it against."
Matharu took over after halftime. The 5-foot-7 guard and Mississippi State transfer scored eight points in the third quarter on 3-of-6 shooting. She was then responsible for UT's first seven points in the final frame.
After the win, Matharu joined Schaefer and Harmon at the press conference. The water bottle in front of Schaefer had been used, so he asked for a new one. Matharu quickly handed him an unopened bottle, to which the coach asked, "What else can you do for me today?"
"Anything else," Matharu replied.
Even though Matharu filled up the stat sheet, A&M coach Gary Blair saved his praise for Harmon and UT senior Audrey Warren. Of Warren, who grabbed nine rebounds and drew multiple offensive fouls, Blair said she "does the little things that are not going to come on the sheet."
Blair also said that "they outplayed us between the ears at the point guard position today." While running the Texas offense, Harmon scored 18 points and distributed nine assists. The freshman had two turnovers.
Harmon actually came off the bench Sunday as Schaefer elected to not start her for the first time this season. Schaefer said it was a "decision that the coach makes" to move Joanne Allen-Taylor over from her customary shooting guard position at the start of the game. Harmon entered the game with 4 minutes, 56 seconds left in the first quarter and eventually logged 33 minutes of playing time.
"I thought Rori came off and had her ears pinned back, hair was on fire, and she played really well," Schaefer said. "Awfully special, awfully special day for her and running her team."
The loss was the first of the season for A&M. Sydnee Roby's 16 points led the 8-1 Aggies.
Texas A&M hit five of its 17 3-point attempts. The Aggies were leading the nation with their 45% success rate from behind the 3-point line.
Tip-ins: Before Sunday's game, Texas presented Blair with a pair of cowboy boots that were decorated with the Longhorns logo. He is retiring at the end of this season. ... It was UT's first trip to College Station since 2012. ... Matharu hit five of her team's eight 3-pointers. ... Texas turned 19 A&M turnovers into 32 points. The Aggies did not score a single point off of UT's season-low seven giveaways. ... Texas will be idle until Saturday's home game against Idaho.