By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
LASHANN Higgs returned to her role as the top scorer for the Texas Longhorns, but the team suffered an upset loss in the season opener.
Higgs scored 17 points but the No.15 ranked Longhorns suffered a 64-57 loss to the South Florida Bulls. She shot 7-16 from the field, added four rebounds and returned to the form from last year’s season-ending knee injury.
The Longhorns scored just seven points in the first quarter and struggled to recover for much of the contest.
The Bulls took a 42-38 lead headed into the fourth quarter but Higgs sparked the Longhorns comeback. She scored on a put-back to tie the game with 6:57 left in the fourth quarter, and on the ensuing possession, gave Texas its first lead of the game on a driving layup, 49-47.
The Bulls responded with a score but Higgs scored her seventh consecutive point on her run with a three pointer at the 4:18 mark. South Florida would then go on to close the game on a 15-5 run.
“I thought there were some really good moments in this game. There were some things that we can learn from and build upon. Overall, it was an ugly game. Both teams brought pressure defensively and caused the other team to turn it over. There were possessions that got down to the end of the shot clock, causing some ill-advised shots that turned into offensive rebounds late in the game for them. I thought that was the difference in the game,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said.
“I thought we had some players who will shoot the ball better as we move ahead. I think we’ll shoot free throws better. It got down to a possession game, and they just won that part of it.”
The Big 12 approved a hardship waiver for Higgs in the offseason, which made the guard eligible to return to the Longhorns for the 2019-20 season.
In November 2018, Higgs was diagnosed with a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee.
Recovery time for the injury is traditionally 9-12 months. She told KTXS ABC affiliate that her return to the court has been long awaited.
“I’ve been waiting all year for this. It means so much to me and I’m just really grateful to be able to do this again. When a person gets hurt, it’s kind of like your body shuts off, and your mind kind of shuts off as well.
“So it’s more of getting back into things and rebuilding that chemistry with my teammates,” she said. “Just put it all out there. Because you don’t really expect to get hurt. You never know when it’ll be your last.”
Aston also said Higgs’ comeback should propel Texas in their quest to return to the national conversation.
“I think more than anything, Lashann leads by example in how much passion she plays the game with,” she said. “She’s what most of us would call a gym rat. She spent the adequate time that it takes to make sure her skill level stayed the same.”
Higgs has appeared in 107 career games for the Longhorns and has scored 1,019 career points.
She played in just four games of her senior season before suffering the season-ending injury.
Though sidelined, Higgs received her third selection to the Academic All-Big 12 Teams.
She was one of just eight student-athletes in the conference this year to have at least three selections.