Sutton, White lead No. 10 Texas past Fordham, 72-54
ESTERO, Fla. (AP) — Sug Sutton needed a couple of minutes outside the victorious Texas locker room to figure out how to get her Gulf Coast Showcase MVP trophy back into its box.
Like every other challenge she faced over the weekend, she found the answer.
Sutton scored 17 points, Jatarie White added 16 and No. 10 Texas clamped down defensively late to beat Fordham 72-54 for the Gulf Coast title on Sunday night, the Longhorns‘ third win in as many days.
“It’s going to help us a lot,” Sutton said. “Everyone gave us a challenge … and it taught us just to push through as a team.”
Charli Collier scored 11 and Destiny Littleton added 10 for the Longhorns (6-0), who had 14 points off turnovers and 17 second-chance points.
“I really thought that tonight was a good gut-test for us,” Texas coach Karen Aston said. “I do think Fordham is a good team and I thought they executed. They gave us some fits from a matchup perspective.”
Bre Cavanaugh had 18 for Fordham (4-3), which scored 23 points in the game’s first 10 minutes and scored 31 points in the 30 minutes that followed.
Kendell Heremaia added 17 for the Rams, who were outrebounded 39-19.
“I was super-proud of our kids,” Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley said. “Everybody’s trying to find something about themselves in this tournament. We were fearless. There was no fear.”
The three-day weekend in southwest Florida provided one test after another for Texas, which lost Lashann Higgs to a knee injury in the second quarter of their tournament opener on Friday and needed to rally to top Quinnipiac. It then needed to hold off a second-half rally try by Michigan in Saturday’s semifinals, and wasn’t in full control of the title game until the final minutes.
Cavanaugh’s 3-pointer at the buzzer gave Fordham a 23-22 lead after the first quarter, a period where the Rams made seven of eight shots in one stretch and wound up shooting 69 percent — 63 percent from beyond the arc.
It was success that Texas wasn’t used to letting happen.
The Longhorns allowed opponents to shoot a combined 28 percent in the tournament’s first two games, 19 percent from 3-point range. But Fordham made five 3-pointers in the first quarter Sunday, one more than Texas had allowed in its most recent six quarters against Quinnipiac and Michigan combined.
Texas then settled in, taking leads of 39-28 at the half and 53-44 going into the fourth. But the Rams missed their first six shots of the final quarter, marking the ninth time in the three-game event that Texas forced an opponent into an 0-for-5 stretch or worse, and were down 15 when Cavanaugh rattled in a 3 to end the drought with 5:59 left.
“It was a really good weekend,” Sutton said.
Fordham: Gaitley is the matriarch of a great basketball family. She’s won more than 600 games as a coach, and her sons are all in the game — eldest son Dutch is an assistant coach with the Charlotte Hornets, middle son DC is a video intern with the Miami Heat and youngest son Jordan plays at Richmond, where his mom used to coach.
Texas: There’s a lot of basketball left to be played and some excellent teams out there, but here’s a potential good omen for the Longhorns: Notre Dame won this tournament last season, and went on to capture the national championship — just like Connecticut did on its way to the 2015 NCAA title.
Texas will likely stay right around 10th in the next AP Top 25. The only Top 10 team to lose this week was No. 9 Oregon State, which fell to No. 1 Notre Dame 91-81.
Michigan (5-1) earned an 80-73 win over Washington (3-3) earlier Sunday for third place at the Gulf Coast Showcase. No. 21 Missouri (5-2) got a 62-54 triumph over Duke (3-3) for fifth place, and Quinnipiac (3-3) — which lost 56-55 to Texas on Friday — closed on a 12-2 run to cap a 69-66 victory over Ball State (1-4) in the seventh-place game.
The tournament is held in an arena that sits about a mile from the campus of Florida Gulf Coast, which had some major women’s basketball news of its own Sunday. The Eagles beat American 90-71 in the Rainbow Wahine Showdown at Honolulu, giving FGCU coach Karl Smesko a milestone win. His record improved to 500-116.
Fordham: Visit Georgetown on Thursday.
Texas: Host UTSA on Wednesday.