By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
LASHANN Higgs will have an opportunity to have an even greater impact on the Texas Longhorns' women's basketball programme this season as a member of an experienced starting lineup expected to contend for a national title.
Higgs got the start in the Longhorns' final exhibition and finished with 14 points and four assists in a 99-36 win over Oklahoma City University at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas, on Sunday.
The junior guard shot 5-13 from the field and 2-5 from beyond the arch in 23 minutes in the rout of the defending NAIA Division I national champion.
She was the catalyst behind a defensive effort that forced 20 turnovers and limited Oklahoma City to 22 per cent shooting in the second half.
"During the offseason, I focused more on developing a stronger mental ability," Higgs told the Daily Texan. "I'm expecting basically to take on the role of (former Longhorn) Brianna Taylor (from) last year. I'm looking forward to being that defensive stopper like she was."
Texas head coach Karen Aston continued with the Texan on the impact Higgs has on the team's defensive effort.
"(Higgs is) a very gifted basketball player," Aston said. "Her mentality and her mental toughness and being able to not get down on herself, and those types of things - those are the things that keep Lashann from being as good as she can be."
Higgs is a part of a three-guard lineup that includes seniors and All-Big 12 Preseason team members Ariel Atkins and Brooke McCarty.
The Longhorns are considered one of the top teams in the country and are ranked No.2 in the AP Preseason poll and No.3 by Sports Illustrated.
"It was good to get back in the Erwin Center," Aston said.
"It was a long summer and fall for our players and it's always good to get in game mode. I was really pleased with our energy and that we were really trying to pay attention to the detail of what we were trying to accomplish defensively.
"Offensively we executed fairly well, missed a lot of easy shots, but those happen when you're anxious and going too fast. Otherwise, I was fairly pleased with what we looked like today. I think we have a lot to build on this year."
Texas opened the game on a 7-0 run, but Oklahoma City was able to pull within four (19-15).
The Longhorns responded with a 21-8 run to put the game away for good and take a 49-25 lead at the half. They piled on 30 unanswered points in the third quarter en route to the win.
The Longhorns open the 2017-18 regular season on Sunday, November 12 when they host Stetson.
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 the 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. They were the No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in programme history.
Texas finished second in the Big 12 for the second straight year and had one of the toughest schedules in the country with 14 games against ranked opponents.
Despite the schedule they were able to produce a 19-game winning streak.