It’s been a long road but after its first new season under a new head coach, Texas enters the Big 12 Championships with a lot to prove.
The Longhorns (12-17, 5-13) enter this weekend’s tournament coming off a big 13-point victory over West Virginia on Senior Night. Despite all of the ups and downs the season has brought, Texas showed on Tuesday night that its defense and inside game can cause nightmares for any team it draws in the tournament.
“I think you could honestly say we are playing as good as anybody in the Big 12 and could beat anybody in the Big 12 on a given night,” head coach Karen Aston said. “I feel really good about our team and where we are and how we’re playing.”
Texas earned the No. 9 seed in the tournament and will play No. 8 seed Kansas State in the first round. The two teams split the season series, with Texas beating the Wildcats, 59-40, in the first meeting before dropping the second by 21 points.
The Texas frontcourt has emerged as the team’s defining attribute this season, behind the strong play of Nneka Enemkpali and Imani McGee-Stafford. Enemkpali finished the season averaging 13.0 points and 9.3 rebounds per game while logging a team-high 13 double-doubles.
McGee-Stafford stepped onto the court in her freshman season and showcased a talent that will likely lead the Longhorns for many years to come, finishing the season averaging 11.0 points and 9.3 rebounds including 12 double-doubles. The talented newcomer also earned Big 12 Freshman of the Year in addition to being named to the All-Big 12 First Team.
Junior Chassidy Fussell led the team in scoring for the third straight season, compiling a 14.5 season average to go along with 5.5 rebounds per game. Fussell is the veteran and leader of this Longhorns squad and makes them a threat to beat anyone when she’s in her zone.
As a team, the Longhorns outrebounded their opponents in 22 of their 29 games and established themselves as a post-dominating team. The squad has also shown the ability to get in shooting zones seemingly anytime, as they’ve outshot opponents by an average of 40.3 percent to 37.7 percent.
Although a lack of focus and young age plagued the team for much of the season, the Longhorns seem to know how to play together when it counts and should be a team to watch
“I don’t think there is a measuring amount for how much they have grown. The biggest thing I take from this is the character of the people that we have returning,” Aston said. “They buckled down and started playing for each other, more as a team, and bought into the way that we do things.”
Texas will play its opening round game on Friday at 6 p.m. at the American Airlines Arena in Dallas.
Published on March 8, 2013 as "Horns ride Senior Night win into Big 12 tournament spot".