A 36-26 Longhorn lead dwindled to 36-31 midway through the game against Tennessee on Nov. 29, but senior guard Celina Rodrigo hit her only — and perhaps the biggest — three pointer of the game.
Rodrigo’s shot halted a 5-0 run for the Volunteers while sparking a 12-6 run by Texas en route to a 64-53 win.
While these shots have become the norm for Rodrigo this season, the Marietta, Georgia native hasn’t always had the confidence to take big shots.
“I just feel like coach has instilled that trust in us as a team, not just me,” Rodrigo said. “I know even if it misses, we got two big girls down there to clean it up, so that also gives all the guards a sense of confidence when we take those shots.”
Rodrigo shot just under 12 percent from beyond the arc in her freshman year. Three years later, Rodrigo boasts a team best 40.9 three point field goal percentage.
“I’ve been working hard on it over the summer,” Rodrigo said. “Just getting a feel for it and getting a lot of shots up.”
Outside shooting isn’t the only thing that has improved since her freshman year. In the 2012-13 season, Texas finished eighth in conference play with a 5–13 record. This season, Texas’ 7-1 record leads the Big 12, tied with Baylor.
Some of Rodrigo’s career highlights include defeating Tennessee and West Virginia on the road — something the senior class hadn’t accomplished until this year. Rodrigo also said making the Sweet 16 last year was a favorite memory, but the bar has been raised for this season.
Rodrigo hopes to top those memories, but she said they have to continue taking it one game at a time. Against Kansas (5-14, 0-8), Rodrigo said the team needs to get its edge back.
“It starts on the defensive end,” Rodrigo said. “Whenever we’re out there taking charges or getting stops, we as a team get really fired up for that. It starts there and offense will come.”
Wednesday night’s game also represents the Longhorns’ first chance to grab the program’s 1,000th all-time win. Head coach Karen Aston said the program’s growth makes reaching that mark much more special for Rodrigo and the rest of the seniors.
The Longhorns’ ascent to the top of the Big 12 has put them in a spot they haven’t been in for a while — with a target on their back. However, Rodrigo said she enjoys being the hunted rather than the hunter.
“I think we kind of look at it as motivation, because in years’ past we haven’t been that team,” Rodrigo said.
With just five home games remaining on the schedule, Rodrigo knows her time as a Longhorn is coming to an end, but she also knows there’s more to come this season.
“I can’t believe I’m a senior already,” Rodrigo said. “I’ve enjoyed every moment. I’m just proud to be out there and represent Texas.”