Texas’ young squad is making noise in the NCAA Tournament

Amsal Madhani, Sports Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the March 25, 2022 flipbook.

Following an impressive 28-6 season capped off with a Big 12 championship, the Longhorns turned their focus to the NCAA Tournament where they have been putting the league on notice.

Texas cruised past the first two rounds of the tournament with big wins over Fairfield and Utah, but it’s not over yet.

With great contributions from their freshmen players Rori Harmon and Aaliyah Moore, the Longhorns have found ways to be successful on both ends of the floor as they seek a trip back to the Elite Eight following Friday’s Sweet 16 matchup against Ohio State. 

Moore has been a standout performer for Texas during the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament, posting a double-double against Fairfield in the first round and shooting 9-of-10 against Utah in the second. 

“She’s playing like the kid we knew she was going to be, and she’s getting more and more comfortable every day,” said head coach Vic Schaefer. “She’s playing with confidence. But she’s worked at it.”

The freshman forward has started to come into her own and find her groove following an ankle injury that forced her to miss a chunk of the regular season. 

“My son goes, ‘Hey Dad, (Aaliyah Moore), she’s playing really good. Where’s that been?’ I’m like, ‘Well, son, she’s been hurt, and it takes a while to get back sometimes when you’ve been hurt like she was,’” Schaefer said after the team’s win over Utah on Sunday. 

Along with Moore, Harmon has continued to light up both ends of the floor with a double-double in the first round and 11 points, eight assists and two steals in the Longhorns’ blowout win in the second. 

Just a freshman, Harmon provides veteran-like leadership to the team with her tenacity on the defensive end night in and night out. 

“Rori was really special leading our team. She was special defensively,” Schaefer said after Sunday’s win. “When we have kids asking to come out of games because they’re tired, that means they’re playing really hard because we are in really good shape.”

Harmon’s play this season has not gone unnoticed, winning the All-Big 12 Freshman of the Year award. She has shown why she deserved that award with her outstanding play throughout the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. 

Although Texas is a young team, it has played with a lot of fight and eagerness to get back to the top of the NCAA and bring home a championship. With great play from some of its freshmen, it seems like that goal may not be out of reach. 

With a Sweet 16 matchup against No. 6 Ohio State coming up Friday, the Longhorns will look to lock in and play some of their best basketball to return to the Elite Eight.  

“You know what, we could have played a lot of people today, and I think it would have been a good day for Texas,” Schaefer said on Sunday. “My challenge now is to try to keep that going, and that is hard because they’re going to go listen to a bunch of people talk, and we got some folks’ attention I’m sure today, but we’ve got to stay humble and hungry.”