Friday, January 5, 2018
By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
LASHANN Higgs continues to have a breakout season for the Texas Longhorns and reached another scoring milestone for the second consecutive game.
Higgs finished with a career high 30 points as her No.8 Longhorns protected home court with an 84-79 win over the No.20 Oklahoma Sooners Wednesday night at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. She shot 11-15 from the field and a perfect 7-7 from the free throw line.
Higgs surpassed her previous career high of 25 points set just days ago in a December 28 win over the Oklahoma Sooners.
"I would say it was more about trusting my work more," the junior guard said about her improved confidence and production this season, "It was kind of forcing myself to be mentally tough for the team. I would say since I'm starting to focus more on defence, it kind of takes the pressure off of me to perform more offensively because our team can score. If I can play defence and help the team that way more than I can play offence, then I'll do that."
Her field goal makes (11) and minutes played (32) were also career highs while she tied the mark in free throws made (seven).
Texas overcame a late six-point deficit with just under four minutes left to play to improve to 12-1 on the season and remain undefeated thus far in Big 12 play at 3-0.
Trailing 77-76, Higgs made a pair of free throws followed by another pair from senior guard Brook McCarty to take the lead for good.
After a Longhorns score, Higgs scored on a layup out of a Texas timeout to regain the three-point lead with 37 seconds left to play.
Higgs said her play has also been influenced by the important support she has received from McCarty. "I would say very important because there were times I'd get really down on myself and (Brooke) would (say) in practice, 'If you're not going to give me your all, then leave.' I would say that the seniors are really great leaders and people to follow," Higgs said.
McCarty finished with 20 points and 11 assists.
"I think right now our juniors are really stepping it up. I think we are leaving (the team) in good hands," she said, "I think I always try to get my teammates involved just because I know we have scorers like Lashann. I have really big confidence in my teammates in giving them the ball"
Higgs is currently averaging a career-high 13.8 points per game. She is shooting 58 percent from the field and 33 percent from three-point range.
Longhorns head coach Karen Aston said Higgs' play thus far is indicative of the work she has put in during the offseason.
"You can't cheat the work and I'm not saying that she ever wasn't in the gym, but I do think that she worked on some different pieces of her game this summer. Again, I've said this several times, one of them is the three-point shot because her three-point shot is so much more productive this year and more consistent it allows her to do other things. I think she had a lot of openings tonight and a lot of avenues to get to the rim and she made great decisions," she said, "Why she is so much better is because if they are not open, the next game she's going to pass the ball. Her decision-making has gotten so much better and she has gotten so much more confident with it. She's a complete player now. No question about it."
Oklahoma State head coach Coach Jim Littell said Higgs was the deciding factor and has grown as a player since the teams last played a season ago.
"We didn't have an answer for Lashann Higgs. We knew she was good off the dribble and we kind of planned on that, but she still got to the rim and had a great night against us, I thought she was incredible," he said, "You just see the young lady exude confidence and there's no uncertainty in her game. I think in the past, and I don't watch her every day, but I just think that she's very explosive player; she's very explosive off the dribble and has a very quick first step. But the difference in her game - she's always been athletic - but the difference in her game is she's extremely confident right now."
In her sophomore season, Higgs - the Harbour Island native - averaged eight points, three rebounds, 1.5 assists and one steal in just over 17 minutes per game. She built upon the numbers from her freshman season when she averaged 7.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game in 13.2 minutes. She established an important role in the rotation for the Longhorns highlighted by a season-high 16 points over then second-ranked Baylor.
The Longhorns finished last season 25-9 but in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament, they suffered a 77-66 loss to the Stanford Cardinal at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Higgs finished with five points and three rebounds.