The Texas Longhorns lose to the UConn Huskies, 83-76, in a Top 5 matchup in women’s college basketball. Here are three thoughts on the game.
Texas (1-1) fell to the Huskies (2-0) for the 10th time in 10 meetings. Texas guard Sonya Morris led the Longhorns with 21 points, while forward Taylor Jones had 10 points off the bench. Aaliyah Moore had 11 points and Ndjakalenga Mwenentanda had 13 points. Azzi Fudd led UConn with 32 points.
Without Rori Harmon
Texas sophomore point guard Rori Harmon didn’t play for the second straight game due to a foot injury. Harmon made the trip and could be seen in a Texas social media photo on Sunday night participating in the shootaround, albeit without her walking boot and shoes off. So, who knows how much she was actually participating. But, the No. 3 Longhorns had to play without her against the No. 5 Huskies.
Without her, the Longhorns put the ball in the hands of two transfer guards — Shaylee Gonzalez and Sonya Morris.
The reality was Gonzalez did most of the point guard duties. She ended up scoring six points and dishing out six assists. But she also had five turnovers. Morris is more suited to be the off-guard, and her offense reflected it — 21 points.
There were times when it was clear the Longhorns missed Harmon. Those times came when UConn ratcheted up its defensive pressure, especially in the halfcourt. This is the type of defense the Longhorns are used to because they see it in practice every day. It’s the same type of intense man-to-man defense Texas plays. But the Longhorns are not used to seeing it without Harmon running the point. And, without the sophomore, Texas struggled for consistency on the offensive end, especially in the first half.
Some of this, naturally, is early-season chemistry issues for a team that took in four transfers, all of which were highly successful at other programs.
Texas coach Vic Schaefer has described Harmon as “day-to-day,” so the injury doesn’t sound too serious. But it comes at a serious time for Texas, which could play three ranked teams this week, depending upon how things go at the Battle 4 Atlantis. But Harmon’s absence, at times, looked glaring and it only underscored her importance to their chances in March.
Taylor Jones Will Be Starting Soon
The 6-foot-4 forward was one of those four transfers. At Oregon State, she only played a handful of games last season. But, for her previous two seasons she averaged 12.3 points and eight rebounds.
Taylor had some minor injuries during the preseason, so Schaefer is opting for Deyona Gaston in what would likely be Jones’ future spot in the starting lineup. Based on Monday, it won’t be long. Jones is starting to play like she has her foot on the gas.
She dropped 21 points on Louisiana off the bench on Friday. Against UConn, she ended up with 10 points and a team-leading eight rebounds as Jones played 28 minutes to Gaston’s 11.
Jones can run the floor, defend and score. Gaston is a fine defender and has the occasional good game offensively, based on last season. But Jones is clearly an upgrade. She should take a place in the starting lineup as soon as Schaefer is comfortable with Jones’ overall health and her grasp of their offensive system.
Texas Defense Needs Work
It’s not often you write that about a Schaefer-coached team. But, yes, this group needs a little work. Not having Harmon didn’t help. She’s the best overall perimeter defender on the team. Four transfers are learning the Schaefer standard. And UConn is one of the most offensively skilled teams in the game. Plus, UConn’s Azzi Fudd just had an incredible game. She made every big shot she was asked to make.
But, there were clear breakdowns, especially in transition when Texas failed to slow down UConn off missed baskets. Some of that was getting outrebounded. But some of that was Texas’ guards and small forwards not getting back fast enough. In the halfcourt, Texas didn’t do as good a job as last year’s team of guarding passing lanes and were slightly out of positions on several possessions where help-side defense would have cut off penetration.
UConn shot better than 50 percent most of the game (The Huskies finished at 55 percent). It should also be noted that Texas shot 52 percent for the game. But the clear difference in the game was UConn’s 34-26 edge on the glass (12-9 offensive) and the 14-2 edge UConn had on fast-break points.
Texas’ defense didn’t quite meet the moment. Schaefer says the team is a work in progress and will look different in February and March. Monday was a measuring stick, and now Texas knows just how far they have to go to catch a team like UConn, even if only two rankings separate them in the AP Top 25.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard