Texas faces tall task with Sweet 16 waiting

Tyler Horka

Alabama State head coach Freda Freeman-Jackson said if Texas plays the way it did against her team Saturday night in future tournament games, it will end up in the National Championship conversation.

Freeman-Jackson’s words came after Texas dismantled her 15th seeded Hornets 86-42 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Austin Saturday night.

According to Texas head coach Karen Aston, her team might not be ready to take the title yet — but it’s getting close.

“We do have just this one little step of mentality and a way of playing that we have to take,” Aston said. “But I’m excited about this team. I don’t think we’re through, and I’m really excited about the future.”

The immediate future for Aston’s squad comes Monday at 8 p.m. back at the Erwin Center when the Longhorns take on No. 10 Missouri.

The Tigers took care of No. 7 BYU 78-69 Saturday evening at the Erwin Center as Aston looked on, scouting the potential second round opponents. She said Missouri’s toughness caught her eye.

“They have played in the rigors of the SEC, so nothing is going to surprise them or intimidate them,” Aston said. 

Texas took on three SEC opponents this season and beat them all, collecting wins against No. 4 Tennessee, No. 9 Mississippi State and Arkansas. 

Missouri head coach Robin Pingeton said that the physical nature of the Longhorns reminds her of fellow SEC foes. 

“I think Texas is one of those teams that’s used to playing very physical, as well,” Pingeton said. “So I really do, I think it’s going to be a good matchup.” 

The Tigers boast a starting lineup that does not feature a player shorter than six-feet tall. Four of the five starters for Texas are under the six-foot mark.

“I think they are a big team and I think they play good defense,” senior guard Empress Davenport said. “They shoot a lot of threes. So us guarding the transition threes will be a huge focus for us.”

Davenport helped the Longhorns get off to a quick start against Alabama State in round one. She hit four of her first five shots, two of which were three-pointers.

Open looks will not come as easily against the length of the Missouri defense. But Aston said that Missouri presents the biggest challenge when Texas is on defense.

“I was very impressed with their overall physicality and the way they move the ball offensively,” Aston said. “They will be a difficult guard for us.”

Getting past Missouri and reaching the Sweet 16 for the second straight season will be a tall task for the Longhorns, but it isn’t the overall goal. Aston said her players have higher aspirations.

“If we were to fall short somewhere along the way before the Final Four, this particular team would be disappointed,” Aston said. “That’s what their goal and what their expectation was.”