Women's Basketball ends regular season with flourish
March 6, 2012
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
AUSTIN, Texas – Now the Texas Longhorns know what it feels like to beat rival Texas A&M in the warm confines of their very own Frank Erwin Center.
As the Texas Women’s Basketball team exited its locker room on Sunday afternoon, just minutes removed from a 79-64 victory against the Aggies on senior day, a crowd jammed the arena concourse, serenading the Longhorns in cheers, hoots and hollers as they made their way to a postgame question-and-answer session with fans.
“If I could have chosen any opponent for my last game here, it would have been Texas A&M,” senior post Ashley Gayle said. “For our team to come together and put it all out there is great. It’s a great win for us, and a great way to go out.”
The Longhorns head to this week’s Phillips 66 Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City, Missouri, with momentum filling their sails. After a lob-sided road defeat at the hands of top-ranked Baylor on Feb. 21, UT won the final three games of the regular season.
“We've really wanted to win all of the hustle plays,” said senior Yvonne Anderson, who had a career-high 25 points against A&M. “I think all the little things that we've have been preaching about like pushing the ball, playing with a sense of urgency, executing and taking care of the ball have really helped us in these last three games.”
This all started with a defensive smothering of Oklahoma, as the Longhorns forced 25 turnovers in an 87-62 win on Feb. 25. UT then went on the road and mounted a second-half comeback to top Missouri 75-62, and then against A&M last Sunday, UT withstood a first half that saw seven ties and nine lead changes.
By halftime, UT built a five-point lead, and the Longhorns had already doubled that margin by the 16:37 mark of the second half.
Anderson, playing for the first time this season before her father, Mike, who is the men’s basketball coach at Arkansas, carried her team with a career-high 25 points on 9-of-17 shooting to go along with nine assists and three steals.
“She played like she was playing for (head coach) Gail (Goestenkors) and her mom and dad today. And that was the biggest key in the ballgame,” A&M coach Gary Blair said of Anderson’s impact.
Fellow senior Ashleigh Fontenette added 11 points, and Gayle provided five rebounds, including three offensive.
“I'm really proud of the team, specifically the seniors. They've done a great job when we had our backs against the wall,” said Goestenkors, who led the Longhorns to a season-sweep of the Aggies for the first time since 2004. “The seniors really stepped up and have been great leaders for us and have had a tremendous will to win. I'm very happy for them because they deserve this, and they wanted to make sure that they will be going to the NCAA Tournament. They're doing everything in their power to make that happen.”
A&M actually seized an early four-point cushion, as the Longhorns opened the game with two-straight misses and a turnover. In years past, that would have been a recipe for meltdown, but the Longhorns didn’t flinch and scored seven unanswered points to get back in the game.
Their response against the Aggies was equal to UT’s response when their season looked dire at 5-10 in conference play with only three games remaining.
“We could have easily given up. But we put ourselves in that hole, and we knew we could pull ourselves out,” Gayle said. “We just keep fighting, no matter what the score is and no matter what our record is.”
Said Fontenette: “We didn’t want to have any regrets. I’m very proud of my team for the way we’ve fought these past three games.”