McPherson High graduate and reigning Miss Kansas Basketball Taylor Robertson officially became a national rock star on Wednesday.
Robertson, a freshman who is starting to become more and more familiar to college basketball followers nationally, took center stage as her Oklahoma Sooners hosted No. 1-ranked and mighty UConn before a national television audience.
Displaying the cool, calm and collected demeanor that symbolized her career as a Bullpup, Robertson caused jaws across the country to drop with a stunning 23-point performance against the best team in all the land. UConn's legendary coach Geno Auriemma had to resort to guarding her with 6-2 senior Katie Lou Samuelson, arguably the best player in the country.
Robertson made 6 of 12 from 3-point, the only Sooner to make a trey.
“I mean they had one kid make a jump shot and they almost beat us,” Auriemma said in his postgame press conference.
Robertson lit it up for 16 points in the first half as the Sooners, only 3-7 on the year with a team starts three freshmen and two sophomores, shockingly led 37-31.
Then a Robertson 4-point play — a made 3 plus a free throw as she was fouled — fueled an 8-2 run to start the second half to push the lead to 45-33, which set off warning bells throughout the country.
But the lengthy Huskies time and again grabbed offensive rebounds for second-chance baskets and finally pulled away with a late run. OU led 31 of the game’s 40 minutes.
Robertson’s final line was 8 of 15 from the field, 6 of 12 from 3, 1 of 1 at the line, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and she played all 40 minutes, matching future WNBA player Samuelson and another future pro, Napheesa Collier. That duo combined for 43 points and 28 rebounds.
“It was just a really fun game, like the whole thing,” Robertson said when interviewed after the game. “The atmosphere was great, just being able to go out there and play. I’m not upset with anything, the only thing I’d be upset with is that we didn’t win.”
Like many in McPherson, Bullpup girls coach Chris Strathman was watching the game. And watching it with pride.
“It was so much fun to watch Taylor and OU versus UConn last night,” he said. “OU needed UConn to be a little off their game and they were. OU needed their young players to step up and they did, especially Taylor. They just ran out of gas at the end, but Sooner Nation should be proud. Taylor and I texted before and after the game last night, and she told me before the game that she hoped to ‘Make Geno sweat a little bit!’ I told her Geno is so cool that he doesn't sweat! But I was wrong, I think OU and Taylor made him sweat a little bit last night.”
Strathman said the Huskies’ size and experience in the end decided the outcome.
“The difference in the final was strictly UConn's inside athleticism and length which took over, but also experience and their winning pedigree,” Strathman said. “Coach Auriemma has a veteran group, as he didn't even bother calling a timeout (until the last minute for situational defense) during all of his team's struggles because he trusted them and wanted them to just have to find a way and grind out what was a very ugly win by their rarefied standard. They also did a great job of starting to really limit Taylor's touches late, as she was clearly UConn's focal point on the defensive end to finish the final quarter and game. Taylor earned respect during that game from one of the greatest coaches in the history of men's and women's college basketball. She continues to turn heads and amaze people.”
OU coach Sherri Coale probably didn’t know what she really had when she recruited Robertson, but of course now she’s glad she did. There were many who thought she might not be physically suited for the NCAA Division I level, but she’s debunking that theory.
“They went to some junk (defense) to try and limit her touches and she still got 12 3s up,” Coale said in her postgame press conference. “It’s a credit to her for moving without the ball, it’s a credit to her teammates for screening and moving and the guys were still finding her, even late we got a good look.. she wanted that one. She made some tough ones. Inbound in the corner deep, it was a big-time basket. She played for 40 minutes and just played her guts out. My thing is she played for 40 minutes and I don’t think she turned it over. That tells you a little bit about her skillset, about how calm her head is when she plays. She grew up defensively in this game, too, she really did. She communicated against all the screens and had to battle people posting her up.”
Robertson is now averaging 18.9 points, making 60 of 126 from the field, 46 of 102 from 3-point and 23 of 26 from the free throw line. She has only 15 turnovers in 10 games despite averaging 33.6 minutes a game. She is averaging 3.6 rebounds and nearly 2 assists a game.