In what many expected to be a Final Four-type matchup, No. 6 Baylor (18-1, 4-1 Big 12) took advantage of an uncharacteristically rattled, foul-prone and turnover-prone Longhorns' team (21 total turnovers that led to 24 BU points) to grab control in the first half and then held on for a 12th straight win - 80-67 - over the fourth-ranked Longhorns (16-1, 4-1) in Austin Sunday.
A crowd of nearly 9,000 cheered loudly for the Longhorns, and Texas coach Karen Aston started off her post-game comments with a thank you.
“First of all, I just want to say how impressed I was with the turnout today, the electricity in the arena and the support that the city of Austin and the community gave to our team today," Aston said. "That was absolutely phenomenal. I haven’t seen that kind of electricity in the Erwin Center at a women’s game in years."
As far as the outcome of the game, Aston said her previously undefeated team got out of character.
"We did some uncharacteristic things, like foul repeatedly," she said. "We just couldn’t get a grip on how the officiating was going in the first half. That’s just uncharacteristic of our team right now because we’ve been so mature. I thought that it just got us so out of psych that we weren’t able to execute offensively.
"We had too many turnovers in the first half, and then I would say the second part is that I just didn’t think we rebounded the ball the way that we have been, and they had some things to do with that; their pursuit of the ball was better than ours. But I was a little disappointed we didn’t get the 50/50 balls and the rebounding that we’ve been pretty characteristic of."
The blood is so bad between Aston and BU coach Kim Mulkey, Aston (a former Mulkey assistant at Baylor) didn't even look at Mulkey as the two shook hands after the game.
Mulkey has accused Aston of doing everything exactly as Mulkey does things as a coach, right down to using the same names for offensive sets that Mulkey uses.
Aston has taken the high road. But on the court, the story remains the same: Baylor victorious.
This time, it appeared things might be different. Baylor's only loss of the season came at Oklahoma State, where Texas won by 30. Baylor barely beat West Virginia in Waco (by five points), while Texas won in Morgantown by 11.
But after Texas grabbed an early 7-point lead behind the veteran leadership of 6-7 center Imani Boyette (who even hit a 3-point shot in that stretch), Baylor began swarming Boyette in the post. The double- and even triple-teams on Boyette paid off as BU forced Boyette into 6 of her team-high 7 turnovers in the first half.
Those turnovers seemed to rattle the rest of the Texas team, which suffered 14 of its 21 turnovers in the first half, when Baylor converted the 14 miscues into 18 points and built a 12-point lead at halftime (41-29) behind red-hot Alexis Jones, who finished with 29 points and proved to be unstoppable.
Texas cut a 16-point Baylor lead down to 6 with 2 minutes left, including a charging call on UT's Kelsey Lang that slowed some of the Horns' momentum at the 2:38 mark (and got UT coach Karen Aston out on the floor screaming "HORRIBLE" at officials before her assistants could restrain her).
But Baylor's Jones was simply too much down the stretch.
After Texas cut BU's lead to 70-64 with 2:00 left to play, Jones hit a well-defended jumper just ahead of the shot clock buzzer to ignite a 6-1 run in which Jones scored all the points to stretch Baylor's lead back out to double digits.
Sunday's game was Texas' first loss of the season - and it got away in the first half.
Jones' aggressive penetration allowed BU to get into the paint (and get UT G Celina Rodrigo into foul trouble with 3 quick fouls) while finding forward Nina Davis (24 points) for good looks.
The Bears helped ensure victory from the foul line - hitting 24 of 25 free throws with Jones and Davis both going 8-of-8 - while Texas went to the line only 13 times (and hit 9).
The Lady Bears outscored Texas 22-12 in the paint in the decisive first half and finished with a 34-24 advantage in the paint.
That had to change in the second half, and it didn't because Jones couldn't be stopped. When Empress Davenport guarded Jones alone, Jones went inside. When the double-team came, she lit it up from outside.
Texas was led by Brooke McCarty (16 points) and Boyette (15 points, 17 rebounds).
Baylor outscored Texas in points off turnovers 24-13. BU had 11 TOs compared to Texas' 21.
NEXT UP FOR TEXAS: ... at TCU (11-6, 3-3) on Wednesday ... home vs OU (12-4, 3-2) Saturday.