The Texas Longhorns had a very good week.
Junior forward DeJon Gaston scored 17 points as Texas led for much of a 68-53 victory over Iowa State on Sunday afternoon. After winning at the Moody Center, Texas remained at the top of the crowded Big 12 tournament list.
The 15-point victory came at the expense of the Iowa State team, which finished 15th in the Associated Press poll. Texas won 72-59 over No. 23 Kansas five days earlier.
“I just think we basically attacked our (intelligence report) and played hard in training,” Gaston said. “I think our confidence will grow if we keep playing hard and keep attacking people like we did before.”
Texas recorded their 13th win of the season in front of 6,405 spectators. That crowd had plenty to rejoice in the fourth quarter as Texas extended a 52-47 lead to advance to the final frame. Perhaps the loudest applause came from the defense of UT.
In the fourth quarter, Texan point guard Rory Harmon tapped the ball three times from Big 12 pass leader Emily Ryan. Gaston had a thundering Iowa State center block by Izzy Zingaro and then later beat off an attempt by Ashley Joens. After the game, UT coach Vic Schaefer remarked that “you’re doing something now that you’re holding this group to six (fourth quarter) points.”
“I think we all just got stuck and realized that we need to start pulling forward now,” Harmon said. “For that, we need to make stops.”
With Texas leading 56-49 in the fourth quarter, Iowa State faced a sizing mismatch as 6-1 Joens found themselves under Harmon’s 5-6 defense. Joens drove to the basket, but Amina Muhammad, with some help from the defense, intervened and forced the ball. This led to the possibility of a fast break that ended with Sonya Morris being out of action.
A 6-4 freshman striker, Mohammed had 22 minutes of playing time on Sunday. Many of those minutes were spent defending Joens, who was one of six players selected on the AP Preseason All-American team. Muhammad also had six points and seven rebounds.
“Amina played really well against Joens,” Harmon said. “A freshman performing and playing so All-American, it’s great for her.”
Before the start of the season, eight players brought by Texas to the local media day were asked to name a teammate who would stand out this season. Gaston chose Mohammed because of her resilience.
Gaston’s opinion of Mohammed hasn’t changed in a few weeks. On Sunday, Gaston laughed as he talked about how Muhammad is “hard to beat” in drills the Longhorns often do in training.
“Yes, she is cool. And not even physically, but mentally, she is also cool, ”said Gaston. “When we train, she always fights, always fights with me and all the posts.”
After never falling behind in a game with Kansas, Texas faced three early losses on Sunday. However, the Longhorns only had to deal with one draw after Gaston’s basket made the game 7–6 with 7:26 left in the first quarter.
On offense, Texas complemented Gaston’s 17 points with 11 points from Shaylie Gonzalez and Morris. Seven Longhorns fired at least 50% from the field. Harmon made up for her six losses with seven assists.
Texas held Iowa State on 21 of 52 shots, and the Cyclones only made four of their 15 3-pointers. Joens scored a game-high 21 points, but no other Cyclone scored in double figures. Having been pestered by Harmon all day, Ryan made a season-high eight assists with just three assists.
“Emily made a couple of bad decisions, but I think a lot of that was because we didn’t get to some things fast enough,” Iowa State Coach Bill Fennelly said. “(Harmon) is a great defender with the ball. It’s a great defensive team, as we all knew.”
Last week, Texas received no votes on any of the 28 ballots the AP uses for its weekly poll. Iowa State and Kansas are joined by Baylor at No. 18 and Oklahoma at No. 19 in the latest rankings.
But in a crazy week, Baylor lost twice to unranked Oklahoma State and West Virginia teams. Kansas continued their disadvantage against Texas with a loss in Oklahoma, while Iowa State split their two games.
Oklahoma went 2-0 this week and won four of five conference games. Texas repeated this record 4-1. Four schools—Baylor, Iowa, Oklahoma, and West Virginia—are 3-2 in the Big 12 game, while Kansas and Texas Tech are 2-3.
“I think it will be similar to what you saw on the men’s side,” Fennelly said of the conference. “I don’t know if there will be any results that will really shock anyone… I think it will be a league where you will have to show yourself and of course play well to win and I don’t care. whether at home or away.”
Notes: Texas (13-5) will head to Texas Tech and Baylor next week. … Under Schaefer, Texas is now 7-0 against Iowa State. … Joans grabbed six rebounds for the Iowa State team (11–4) and tied for first place in her school’s career rebounding record book. During last year’s trip to Austin, Jones became Iowa State’s all-time leading scorer.