Women's Basketball translates practice lessons into triumph
Feb. 1, 2010
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Longhorns beat No. 14 Baylor on Sunday, but they actually earned the victory in the days preceding.
So much so, head coach Gail Goestenkors made her team this promise, "If we play the game the way we've been practicing, we will win -- no doubt."
After a double-digit lead dissolved into an overtime loss to Iowa State, the Longhorns had a week's worth of practices to dwell on a few important themes. Focus was likely one, finish another.
And it all culminated with this 61-50 triumph, on a day that promised to be special even before tipoff -- more than 9,000 fans filed in for the annual WBCA Pink Zone game, and the largest crowd to pack the Frank Erwin Center since 2004 provided a backdrop of energy that mirrored the intensity on the court.
The Longhorns were certainly intense from the beginning, and built a 33-25 halftime lead by doing nothing more extraordinary than adhering to their game plan. Baylor's freshman post sensation Brittney Griner rarely caught the ball in a comfortable position under the basket, and every time Griner pivoted, someone wearing burnt orange slid over to provide help.
Ashley Gayle and Cokie Reed bodied up against Griner without hesitation, but when Reed fouled out with 8:29 to play, and Gayle followed about a minute later, the Longhorns got their opportunity to show off what they learned during practice.
The important f-words -- focus and finish.
Leave it to senior Earnesia Williams to step up and headline that effort. Often, Williams was the one who supplied the extra muscle against Griner, and her stat line of six rebounds, two steals and one assist speaks to the invisible qualities like will and determination Williams always gives the Longhorns.
Williams even describes her role with the team this way, "Whatever I can do to help my teammates, wherever they need me."
On Sunday, that was actually behind the 3-point line. The Longhorns attacked Baylor all day with dribble drives and kick-outs, so it wasn't surprising when Williams found herself wide open at the top of the key with a little more than five minutes to play.
She then drained just her third 3-pointer in conference play to quell Baylor's scoring run that cut UT's lead from 20 points to nine, and gave the Longhorns some breathing room at 56-44 with 5:31 remaining.
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey called Williams the "difference in the game," but Williams reacted calmly, saying afterward, "I'm supposed to do that."
After all, accountability usually does breed success.
"Different players showed up for us at different times," Goestenkors said. "We played with a lot of poise and confidence."