After a historic victory over Oklahoma this weekend, Texas head coach Gail Goestenkors is preparing her team for a matchup against an upset-minded Missouri squad that wants nothing more than to play spoiler to the Longhorns’ tournament hopes.
“We can’t afford to look ahead and say that we need to win this or that,” Goestenkors said. “We just need to win the next game — the game that is in front of us. Now the only game that I’m concerned with at this moment is Missouri, period.”
Texas was extremely active on the defensive end against the Sooners, forcing 25 turnovers while only recording 13 turnovers of its own. The Longhorns controlled nearly every aspect of the game, which resulted in their biggest conference win this season and highest margin of defeat over the Sooners since 2005.
“We worked really hard on both ends, crashing the boards, playing defense,” said sophomore guard Chelsea Bass.
There were many positives to take away from the win: Ashley Gayle’s defensive effort (six blocks), Chassidy Fussell’s outburst of 30 points, Yvonne Anderson’s career-high eight steals, and an overall rise in production from the bench players, who accounted for 19 points. Ashleigh Fontenette joined Bass, Fussell and Anderson with double-digit point efforts.
“A win is a win,” Fussell said. “I feel like it’s going to be a big momentum boost for us going into the Missouri game and then finishing out the season.”
This balanced scoring attack paired with the defensive ferocity that the Longhorns put on display against the Sooners is exactly the type of basketball that allows teams to sneak in to the NCAA Tournament at this stage in the year. With its 16-12 record, Texas is firmly on the “bubble,” and its chances of making the tournament ride on its last two conference games, as well as its performance in the Big 12 tournament. As of now, ESPN’s Charlie Crème has the Longhorns as a No. 11 seed and part of his “Last Four In.”
The Tigers aren’t the most talented team in the Big 12, but are still capable of an upset if the Longhorns aren’t careful. Missouri has an even 8-8 home record, with its most recent win coming over Kansas State. The Tigers’ 61-56 victory over the Wildcats is only the second Big 12 game that the Tigers have won this year. Their only other conference win came on Feb. 18 against Kansas. Before the win at Kansas the Tigers had lost 13 straight games, including a 75-58 loss at the hands of the Longhorns on Jan. 25. For the season, the Tigers have scored an average of 61.3 points per game while giving up an average of 62.9 points.
One number to keep an eye on is the fact that the Longhorns have lost their last six conference road games. Their last road victory dates back to Jan. 11 against Texas A&M.
“We just have to take it one game at a time, and we need to treat every game like it is our last,” Goestenkors said.