Texas tries to start anew in Big 12 Tournament

Tyler Horka

The Longhorns let an opportunity slip away from them Monday night. The 13th straight loss to Baylor crushed Texas’ chance to share a regular season Big 12 title with the Bears. 

But senior guard Celina Rodrigo said the team’s mindset hasn’t changed following its 74-48 demolition in Waco.

“We are not going to let this loss tear us apart and lose our confidence,” Rodrigo said. “We are going to try to have the same confidence and energy as a team, and take that into the tournament.”

The Longhorns (26-3, 15-3 Big 12) begin the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship Saturday night against the winner of Kansas vs. TCU. If Texas wins its first two games in the tournament, it might see Baylor again in the title game. 

Texas fell to the Bears 75-64 in last year’s championship game. Junior guard Brianna Taylor isn’t thinking about last year, or even a few days ago. She said her focus is on the immediate future.

“We look at it as a new season,” Taylor said. “From now on, we’re 0–0. We think of it as survive and advance. From here on out, that’s just the way it is.” 

It might be “a new season” for Taylor, but that didn’t stop Rodrigo from reflecting on what the Longhorns have achieved thus far. 

“It has been a phenomenal season that we have had,” Rodrigo said. “We have accomplished a lot of our goals and it has been a really great year for us.”

The No. 6 Longhorns started the season ranked No. 12 but climbed to the top 10 in week three and haven’t left.

Texas secured a No. 2 seed in the conference tournament for the first time since 2004-2005 and tied the 2002-2003 team with 15 conference victories — the most in program history.

The Longhorns already have two more wins than last year’s squad — a team that reached the Sweet 16 where it fell to Connecticut, who eventually won the title. 

“The biggest improvement would probably be our team chemistry, on and off the court,” Taylor said comparing this year’s team to last year’s. “We’re so close right now; it’s unbreakable.”

The “unbreakable” bond that Texas players share led to a 5–3 record against ranked opponents this year. The three losses — one to Oklahoma and two to Baylor — came by a combined total of 57 points.

“We’re definitely disappointed in our losses, and we wish that we would have a zero in that column,” Taylor said. “But we’re glad that it happened then, and hope that it doesn’t happen later on in March.”