In the final seconds of an overtime loss to Kansas at the Erwin Center on Wednesday, Texas high school student Audrey Warren threw out a basketball.
At first glance, the turnover was insignificant. Kansas put up a 70–66 win with an interception by Jayhawk guard Chandler Prather on a pass near the UT basket.
Overall, however, this turnover was part of a worrying trend for Texas.
The turnover was UT’s 23rd in a 45-minute game, a season record. Three days before the game in Kansas, Texas had 22 draws in a 93–58 win over superior opponent UT Rio Grande Valley.
“We have a real epidemic of bad turnover right now,” Texas coach Vic Schaefer said.
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Texas, the No. 13 team in this week’s Associated Press poll, is best known for having increased turnover this season. The UT average of 24.43 forced turns ranks fifth in the country. And despite the last two games, the Longhorns boast the fifth-highest turnover rate in Division I basketball.
“In the Texas game, if you get anywhere close to the loss margin, it really improves your chances of success,” said Kansas coach Brandon Schneider, whose team also lost 23 times to UT.
In their four-point triumph, the Jayhawks turned Texas’ errors into 18 points. They recorded 14 interceptions, but the Longhorns had no one to blame but themselves for some of those losses. For example, Texas was called for a shot clock violation in the last minute of overtime.
Until Wednesday, Texas had no 23-rpm games in two seasons with Schaefer. In the past four seasons and 147 games in Mississippi State, Schaefer’s team has only had that many losses twice. The last time one of his teams had at least 20 turnovers in consecutive games was in 2015-16.
In his post-game press conference, Schaefer stressed that Texas needed to finish the games with a single-digit total turnover. The Longhorns have done it once this season. In a 76-60 win at #17 Texas A&M in December, they had just seven losses. They had 10 losses in a 61-56 win against No. 3 at Stanford on November 14.
Schaefer said UT must “practice with accountability and consequences” when addressing this issue. If someone makes a pass in practice, that player should expect to run in the stands.
Texas will also rely heavily on point guard Rory Harmon going forward. The 5-foot-6 freshman is averaging 10.9 points and 4.6 assists.
Harmon has committed 34 assists and her 1.91 assist-to-assist ratio ranks seventh in the Big 12. A seven-assist game against Kansas took Harmon out of five games in which she had only nine assists.
“In practice, I just need to start speaking more directly and aggressively,” Harmon said. “I also have losses. I just have to be smart in practice. I have to take risks in practice to see what I can and can’t do in the game.”
Since sophomore Ashley Chevalier entered the transfer portal last month, Texas has lacked depth behind Harmon, although shooting guards Joanne Allen-Taylor, Alia Matharu and Kindall Hunter can handle basketball if needed. But Allen-Taylor, a high school student, thinks her young teammate is “more than capable” of getting the job done.
After all, Harmon is a two-time Big 12 Freshman of the Week winner. Off the court, she became one of the faces and voices of the UT basketball program. No Texas player has been in the media more than Harmon this season.
“It’s a heavy burden for a freshman, but here she is, you’ve seen what she’s capable of,” Allen-Taylor said. “I don’t think she is incapable of fulfilling or bearing the responsibility that the coach wants her to bear. I don’t think it’s too hard for her.”
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Texas, which has lost the last two games of the conference, will try to get back at home against West Virginia on Saturday. The Mountaineers (8-5, 1-2) force 21.69 losses per game. It is 21st in the country and second in the Big 12.
On Wednesday, in a 64-53 win over Texas Tech, West Virginia racked up 21 losses. It was the eighth 20-assist game for the Mountaineer defense this season.