After a shaky start to the year, the Texas Longhorns women's basketball team has picked up a pair of solid wins over their last two games.
First, they beat a ranked Tennesee team by six in a game that I broke down in detail for Dave Campbell's last week. The Longhorns used their guard play to beat a tall Lady Vols team, netting the Longhorns their first win all year over a ranked opponent.
Then, they hosted the Ohio Bobcats, winning 73-60 on Wednesday. Ohio is 6-4 on the year with a win over Big Ten school Ohio State and with close losses to TCU, Butler, and Syracuse. They're a likely contender for the MAC title this year and a better team than their record might suggest, so the Longhorns — fueled by double-doubles for Joyner Holmes and Charli Collier and 17 points from Celeste Taylor — getting the double-digit victory is a good sign for Texas going forward.
It's been a good little stretch of games here, but now the Longhorns have to get ready for the biggest test they'll face all year, as they host the No. 1 team in the nation, Stanford, on Sunday at the Erwin Center.
Let's talk about Stanford
The women's college basketball landscape has gotten a lot flatter over the past few years, but the teams at the very top are still incredibly difficult to take down.
The Cardinal are 10-0 on the year with wins over some good teams: 10-1 Gonzaga, 8-2 Buffalo, 9-2 Mississippi State, 7-4 Ohio State, and then the latest, a 27-point victory over an 8-2 Tennessee team.
So, right off the bat, we see one thing: the common opponent here is Tennessee, and the Cardinal beat them in much more convincing fashion than the Horns did.
Stanford is a well-rounded team, with just three players — Lexie Hull, Kiana Williams, and Haley Jones — averaging double figures in scoring. Overall, Stanford is ninth in points per game, while defensively they allow just 57.5 points per game, which puts their average margin of victory at 24.4, the 14th-best mark in the country. To be doing that good in margin of victory with a schedule that's featured some really good teams is even more impressive than the raw stats say.
Stanford has the eighth-best Her Hoop Stats rating this year, and while you might expect the No. 1 team in the country to be higher than eighth, the team has ultimately just played some tougher games while a few teams ahead of them haven't. This is a battle-tested Cardinal squad that's passed every test this year.
On the other side, the Longhorns haven't been passing their tests. Before the last two wins, Texas dropped games against a pair of undefeated teams — Arizona and NC State — by double-digits, plus lost to Hawaii by 13 and South Florida by seven to open the season.
The Tennessee win was a good one, but it's going to take even more from the Horns in this one to get past Stanford. The Cardinal are the better offense and defense. They shoot better from the two and the three, though the Horns convert from the free throw line better.
The one area where Texas can maybe get an advantage that'll help them pull off the upset? The offensive glass. The Longhorns are 62nd in the country in offensive rebounds per game and 31st in offensive rebounding rate, while Stanford is 120th and 72nd, respectively. If Collier and Holmes can create second chances for UT, they've got a chance, though Stanford being seventh in blocks per game could put a damper on that whole "just crash the offensive glass and create second chances inside" thing.
This game airs Sunday at noon on ESPN2.
Other Games Of Note
Remember, Monday begins the winter break, so after Sunday there are no games until next Saturday.
Rice vs. Virginia Tech
No. 11 Texas A&M vs. Georgia Tech
Montana State vs. No. 11 Texas A&M
Abilene Christian vs. Nicholls State
Texas State vs. TCU
SMU vs. UT Arlington