The No. 17 Texas Longhorns (8-1, 2-0 Big 12) are coming off their biggest win so far under Vic Schaefer and will face the West Virginia Mountaineers (7-2, 1-2 Big 12) at 6 p.m. ET on Saturday.
The Longhorns defeated the Iowa State Cyclones 74-59 last Sunday in their most recent outing. The Cyclones began the season ranked all the way up at No. 15, while the Longhorns were not included in the preseason AP poll, though they were picked ahead of the Cyclones at No. 2 in the Big 12 by the conference’s head coaches.
Texas entered their game against Iowa State as a ranked team playing an unranked one, but it still probably meant something to beat a conference foe that some thought was better at the beginning of the season. Not to mention that Iowa State is a very talented team with one of the best players in the country in Ashley Joens on its roster. Joens had 19 points and six rebounds in Sunday’s game, but it was not enough to overcome Charli Collier’s 14 points and 14 boards for the Longhorns.
Joanne Allen-Taylor led Texas with 16 points against Iowa State and she has been a key player for the Longhorns this season along with Collier, who is the team’s superstar and averages 23.4 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. Allen-Taylor is second on the team in scoring with 13.4 points per game, followed by Audrey Warren (13.1) and Celeste Taylor (12). Warren, a junior guard/forward, has seen a ton more playing time this year, but may not appear in Saturday’s game. She was still in concussion protocol as of the Iowa State game. Meanwhile, Taylor is a great all-around scoring guard who has shown improvement as a sophomore.
Texas also gets contributions from starter Karisma Ortiz and a solid group of freshmen: DeYona Gaston, Ashley Chevalier and Shay Holle. And don’t forget about graduate transfer Kyra Lambert who has come to Austin via Duke and is a great point guard.
West Virginia features star Kysre Gondrezick along with fellow double figure scorers Kirsten Deans, Esmery Martinez and Madisen Smith. Martinez should be able to hang with Collier on the glass — she averages 13.7 rebounds per game.
Gondrezick scored 20-plus in each of her first four outings of the season. When she gets hot, the Mountaineers can be dangerous. They started off 4-0 with the last win of that stretch coming on Dec. 6 against the Tennessee Lady Volunteers, who could become ranked next week after their big win over the No. 13 Arkansas Razorbacks on Thursday.
Gondrezick scored a season-high 27 points in the Tennessee game and also had five assists and five steals. We’ll see if she can step up again against another quality opponent. In her team’s loss to the No. 7 Baylor Lady Bears on Dec. 10, she only had 10 points, but that led the Mountaineers in a low-scoring affair.
No. 17 Texas Longhorns (8-1, 2-0 Big 12) vs. West Virginia Mountaineers (7-2, 1-2 Big 12)
When: Saturday, Jan. 9 at 6 p.m. ET
Where: WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, WV
Key to the matchup: Turnovers. Texas scores more points and allows less points than West Virginia despite shooting a worse percentage from the field and having a worse field goal percentage defense. One of the ways Texas can overcompensate is through points off turnovers. It has a turnover margin that is 7.6 better than West Virginia, forces 23.8 turnovers per game and scores an average of 28.2 points off turnovers to West Virginia’s 14.3. If the Mountaineers can take care of the ball and avoid turnovers, they may be in contention for an upset win.
Reason to watch: Texas is a program on the rise with high expectations. Tune in to see if it can build upon its win over Iowa State and prepare itself for ranked matchups to come.