The No. 12 Texas Longhorns continued their 2021-22 women’s basketball season with an 74-70 loss against No. 16 Tennessee on Sunday afternoon. Here are three takeaways from the game.
Texas’ depth is about to get tested
Texas is getting six days off at a good time. The Longhorns (3-1) are banged up.
Two of their talented true freshmen — Aaliyah Moore and Kyndall Hunter — missed the game due to injuries. Moore, who was selected the Big 12 Preseason Freshman of the Year, was hurt against Southeast Missouri. Hunter has been out for more than a week. It doesn’t sound like the injuries are season ending. Later in Sunday’s game, Audrey Warren left the game, and needed help to get off the floor, after falling hard to the ground chasing a rebound. Warren has a history of concussions and wears a special collar to improve blood flow to her head.
The loss of Moore is significant, and it puts pressure on players like Lauren Ebo, who had a solid game with nine points and eight rebounds. Texas also needs to avoid the temptation to rely too much on that third highly-touted freshman, Rori Harmon, even though she had 10 points and 11 assists on Sunday. Expect to see more Latasha Lattimore, who joined the team in August after being released from her commitment to Syracuse, and Deyona Gaston. Both could help out at forward in Moore’s absence.
Aliyah Matharu may end up leading this team in scoring
Entering the season there was plenty of emphasis on Harmon and Moore, along with Warren and returning guard Joanne Allen-Taylor. The belief was that a good portion of the scoring would come from those four players.
Aliyah Matharu wasn’t off the radar, necessarily. But at Mississippi State she only averaged 10.2 points per game. Against Tennessee, Matharu had a season-high 27 points, including a huge 13-point outburst in the third quarter. After four games, she is now leading the team in scoring with 18.3 points per game. She developed a reputation for hitting the 3-pointer at MSU, and she’s done that at Texas, too. But, she’s added more penetration to her game, and as she draws more fouls and contact that should make her a much harder offensive player to deal with. Her comfort with head coach Vic Schaefer’s system is key, too. She played for Schaefer before he took the Texas job.
The defense is just outstanding
Texas forced 24 turnovers against Tennessee and lost because it went ice-cold from the floor in the fourth quarter and in overtime. But, this defense is playing just as tough as one would expect from a Schaefer-coached team. And it fits the Big 12 like a glove. The only women’s team I saw this week that played on-ball defense as good as Texas did on Sunday was West Virginia’s women (don’t get on me — I’m still working my way around the league). That Texas’ output on Sunday came against a Top 16 team should be worrisome to Big 12 competition.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.
**Want to win a $20 gift card? Go sign up here and join our conversation! The best poster each week wins a gift card to your favorite establishment!**