By Wendell Barnhouse
DALLAS - Five days after Texas torched TCU by 34 points in Austin, the Longhorns and the Horned Frogs were matched in a quarterfinal game of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women’s Championship.
The outcome at the American Airlines Center Saturday night was similar in terms of which team won but it was far from a runaway victory. No. 6 seed Texas had an 18-point lead early in the second half then held on for a 67-61 victory over No. 3 seed TCU (17-13).
“They're a difficult matchup,” Texas coach Karen Aston said. “TCU is good basketball team and I expected them to play the way they played tonight. They had an incredible sense of urgency. We knew that this was going to be a different game than it was in Austin.”
With the victory Texas (21-9) advance to the Big 12 Championship semifinals for the second consecutive season. The Longhorns will face No. 2 seed Oklahoma at 4 p.m. Sunday.
TCU offsets a lack of size and a dependable low-post scorer by using four and sometimes five guards. That strategy is dependent on hot shooting, particularly from behind the arc. In the Horned Frogs’ 79-45 loss Tuesday night at UT, they shot 27.6 percent and missed 19 of 22 3-point attempts.
In the rematch, TCU’s shooting touch didn’t improve enough to make a difference – 31.7 percent overall, 7-of-28 from 3-point range.
“If you're going to lose, we would want it to be because you just didn't make enough shots,” TCU coach Raegan Pebley said.
The Horned Frogs’ full-court pressure to start the game was designed to force a fast pace. Texas played along and thrived. The Longhorns took the lead for good six minutes into the game on a driving layup by Brady Sanders and they continued to attack until intermission.
The Longhorns expanded their 38-24 halftime lead with two quick baskets to start the second half to lead by 18. UT then got fast and sloppy.
“That's the tendency of our team, especially I thought we really played with a lot of energy most of the game,” Aston said. “But sometimes they can just get going so fast that you just kind of have to tell them to take a deep breath and slow down a little bit.”
The Horned Frogs twice pulled within four points midway through the second half and trailed 63-58 with 3:13 remaining. But over the next two minutes, TCU missed two layups, the front end of two one-and-ones and an open 3-pointer.
“We put ourselves in situations to win it,” Pebley said. “We had so many opportunities, so many.”
The Longhorns, who just less than two months ago had to overcome losing senior Nneka Enemkpali to a season-ending knee injury have won six of their last seven.
“We’ve found our urgency,” freshman Ariel Atkins said. “We knew what was at stake and we wanted to accomplish what we set out to accomplish towards the beginning of this season, so we just found it in us to pull together and do what we needed to do.”