AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - There was no mention of a rare Tennessee two-game losing streak in November or what it might it mean over the long haul of the season. All coach Holly Warlick could see was another bad defensive game by her No. 4 Lady Vols, prompting a vow that it won’t happen again.
After No. 6 Texas easily handled the Tennessee 72-59 Sunday night, Warlick could barely contain her anger at what she saw on one side of the ball.
“All I care about us is getting down, getting in a stance and getting a stop. Then I will be a happy coach,” Warlick said. “If we get beat because we can’t score, so be it.”
Tennessee couldn’t stop the Texas frontcourt of Kesley Lang, who scored 18 points, and Nneka Enemkpali, who scored 17. Four Texas players scored in double figures as the Longhorns snapped a five-game losing streak in the rivalry.
“It’s probably going to take getting our butts beat to realize the importance of getting down and playing in a stance. You can’t defend somebody when you’re standing straight up.”
For Texas, the victory was another important step in coach Karen Aston’s mission to return the Longhorns (5-0) among the nation’s elite programs. Once a powerhouse, Texas has struggled to be a factor nationally or in the Big 12 over the last decade.
Texas started this season ranked in the Top 10 and backed it up with an impressive victory at then No. 6 Stanford. Handily beating Tennessee will further expectations of a big season in Aston’s third year in Austin.
“I think it’s really big from a confidence standpoint. We have players who have never been in these situations because they are young, or older players who haven’t had these kind of wins,” Aston said.
Bashaara Graves scored 15 points for Tennessee (4-2).
Texas led 30-20 at halftime behind 12 points from Lang, who had no trouble establishing position under the Lady Vols basket. Tennessee center Nia Moore, the Lady Vols’ leading scorer through the first four games, started but played just five minutes and had no points or rebounds.
“I just didn’t think (Moore) was helping us at the time. The game was a little fast for her and we just tried to go with somebody else. Maybe looking back, we should have played her more. Obviously it couldn’t hurt,” Warlick said.
Texas kept up the pressure in the second half, never letting the Lady Vols make a game of it. Tennessee’s Jasmine Jones briefly cut the Texas lead under 10 with the first basket of the second half but Texas quickly regained control when Celina Rodrigo buried a 3-pointer.
The Longhorns pushed the lead back to 15 when Enemkpali made consecutive baskets that made it 50-35 with 12:50 to play. Tennessee cut the Texas lead under 10 with just under four minutes to play, but a put-back by an unguarded Enemkpali turned momentum back to the Longhorns.
“They (Texas) have a lot more heart than they did last year,” Graves said. “They came out real strong. I didn’t see that last year.”
Texas: Kelsey Lang was supposed to back up 6-foot-7 Imani McGee-Stafford until a preseason injury knocked McGee-Stafford out of the lineup. Lang responded by leading Texas in scoring average, shooting percentage and minutes over the first five games.
Tennessee: The Lady Vols came in forcing opponents into an average of 27 turnovers. They managed only 12 against Texas.
FREE THROWS: Tennessee could have made a game of it from the line. The Lady Vols were just 13 of 25 shooting free throws. Texas was 11 of 18.
Texas: Hosts New Mexico on Wednesday night.
Tennessee: Hosts Saint Francis (Pa.) on Wednesday night
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