Women's Basketball concludes Big 12 play
March 8, 2012
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Playing in the Big 12 Conference is both dizzying and daunting. In 2012, for instance, it features Baylor, the nation's top-ranked and undefeated team, and Texas A&M, the defending national champions.
League squads have combined to lead the nation in attendance for more than a decade, and every conference game feels like a sucker punch to the stomach.
The Texas Longhorns wrapped up conference play with a loss to Texas Tech in the first round of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Tournament on Wednesday night having delivered some blows and absorbed some others.
After a double-digit road loss to Baylor in late February, the Longhorns ended regular season play on a three-game winning streak, which included last Sunday's home victory against A&M. This year marks the first time since 2004 that UT has swept the season series with the Aggies.
"The fact that we were able to beat A&M twice shows consistency, and the way we beat OU as well," UT coach Gail Goestenkors said. "We finished strong. This was a tough way to lose (81-58 vs. Tech), but you have to consider our body of work."
And for UT, that includes a rigorous nonconference schedule that featured then-No. 5 Stanford and SEC Tournament champion Tennessee. InNovember, the Longhorns also logged a 79-53 victory against then-No. 22 Virginia and a 61-60 comeback win against California, which finished second in the competitive Pac-12.
The Longhorns have victories this season against four teams with top-50 RPI rankings, including their triumph against A&M on Jan. 11 in College Station for UT's first win against the Aggies since 2007.
"Texas is still an NCAA Tournament team," Tech head coach Kristy Curry said Wednesday. "You look at their RPI and strength of schedule. You should look at the body of work. One loss shouldn't define your season. Their strength of schedule, their RPI, their body of work should be enough to get them in the NCAA Tournament."
The Longhorns ended the regular season with a flourish. They forced 25 turnovers in a smothering defeat of the Sooners, came back on theroad against Missouri and then held off A&M 79-64.
UT opened in the conference tournament against Tech with a 6-0 lead, but then saw the game unravel as the Longhorns suffered through one of their worst offensive halves of the season. UT started 3-of-6 from the field at the 16:29 mark of the first half, but the Longhorns mustered only four more field goals before halftime as Tech pulled away.
Ashleigh Fontenette scored 21 points, including 14 in the second half, and was one of three Longhorns in double-digit scoring. AshleyGayle recorded 10 points and a season-high 15 rebounds for her first double-double of the season.
"I can't be mad at my team," Gayle said. "We played hard this whole season. We just happened to play (poorly) on the wrong night."