Perseverance, stellar defense boost Longhorn women’s basketball past Maryland in 64-61 upset

Tong Vu

The No. 6-seed Texas Longhorns shocked the women’s college basketball world Sunday night with an upset of No. 2-seed Maryland 64-61, sending the Longhorns to their first Elite Eight appearance since 2016.

The Terrapins entered the contest with a record of 26–2, averaging an astonishing 99 points per game in tournament play. They hadn’t lost a single game in two months. The question for many wasn’t whether or not they would beat Texas, but rather by how much.

Head coach Vic Schaefer heard all of the noise heading into the matchup, but he emphasized that his team should not be counted out.

“All (of the) experts had them hanging 100 (points) on us,” Schaefer said. “You go to saying things like that, and you better make sure you know who you’re talking about. You have no idea what’s inside the breastplate of my kids.”

Using grit, resilience and a stellar defense, Schaefer’s unit proved the experts wrong once again. The wild, up-and-down season the Longhorns have experienced prepared them for this exact moment, and the team is peaking at the right time, Schaefer said.

“This is typically what our teams do — they get better in March,” Schaefer said. “This team has gotten better. In the last month, we’ve gotten a lot better. When you run into Baylor 2-3 times, if you don’t learn from that, shame on you.”

The Longhorns spent much of the night clawing back from a slow start. To begin the game, Texas fell behind 9-0 as Maryland showcased its offensive dominance. Despite the deficit, the Longhorns did not waver.

With the help of star junior center Charli Collier, the Longhorns went on a second-half tear to eventually take their first lead of the night with four minutes remaining in the third quarter. While Collier finished with a team-high 16 points, the real advantage for Texas was their faith in each other.

“Coach (Schaefer) said in the beginning nobody was gonna believe in us but us,” Collier said. “We started off slow, (giving up) a 9-0 run, but we believed in each other. We pulled ourselves together, closer in the huddles, and said we were gonna get this done. We were gonna make history.”

Sophomore guard Celeste Taylor, who posted a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds, played a huge role for the Longhorns down the stretch. Texas was motivated by the extensive talk before the game about the high-powered Maryland offense, Taylor said.

“There was people out there saying they was gonna hang 100 (points) on us, and I think we took that personally,” Taylor said. “Every last one of us took that personally. So we went out there and said, ‘We need to play defense.’”

With 47 seconds left, a steal by junior forward Lauren Ebo led to a fast break layup by graduate transfer guard Kyra Lambert to give the Longhorns a 61-59 lead. Defense, which has been the area emphasized the most by Schaefer this season, was on full display tonight as the Terrapins managed only 61 points total for a final score of 64-61.

“We pride ourselves on defense,” Collier said. “It don’t matter how many points the other team scores. We are gonna get our defense done, and I’m just so proud of us.”

The Longhorns look to continue their strong defensive play against the No. 1-seed South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite Eight on Tuesday. Schaefer believes his team has more than what it takes to advance.

“These kids — they’re in, they’re all in,” Schaefer said. “That’s what I love about them. They are junkyard dogs. They are coming out fighting.”