By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma, the preseason favorite to win the regular-season title, is still looking for “it.” Maybe Texas has found “it.”
“It” is that mystical combination of factors that makes teams winners. The Sooners struggled this season and wound up with a 9-9 Big 12 record and a No. 6 seed in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championship. The Longhorns earned their No. 3 seed with their best league finish since 2005.
In Saturday night’s final quarterfinal, Texas had “it.” The Longhorns dominated in the second half and stifled Oklahoma’s offense to post an 82-72 victory. It’s just the seventh time in 18 years that the top four seeds advanced to the semifinals. UT (21-10) will face No. 2 seed West Virginia at 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
The Sooners (18-14) carried a 41-35 lead into halftime thanks to making 8-of-16 3-pointers, including a banked-in buzzer beater by freshman T’ona Edwards. OU thought it had seized the momentum.
“I thought that at halftime they really reset themselves, which is a sign of a team that's beginning to have terrific chemistry and growing up,” Texas coach Karen Aston said of the locker room atmosphere. “By the time our coaches got in there, they knew exactly what they needed to do.”
What they did was start the second half with a 21-5 run that resulted in a 56-46 lead with just under 12 minutes remaining. The Longhorns made eight of 11 shots while the Sooners were laying bricks. In the span of three possessions, OU missed six shots – five from 3-point range.
“We just couldn't put any points on the board, and then we made some defensive mistakes, left shooters that we weren't supposed to leave, and let them get some momentum and let them start feeling good,” Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said.
The Sooners, coming off an 87-32 thrashing of Texas Tech in the regular-season finale, had their worst shooting effort of the season – 30.3 percent. OU made 13 3-pointers and only seven field goals from inside the arc.
The Longhorns played 11 players, all of them playing at least eight minutes and only one more than 28. All 11 scored, led by 16 from Chassidy Fussell and 15 from Imani McGee-Stafford.
“I thought our bench was really good today, too,” said Aston, whose team has won four in a row. “Everybody that went in the game gave something, and it's really what our team is all about. We don't have a superstar really, so it was a team effort.”
Coale, one victory shy of 400 in her career, now tries to ready her team for the NCAA Tournament. Of the Sooners’ 14 losses, 11 have been by 10 points or fewer.
“I think that ‘it’ thing that we've been searching for all season, that killer instinct that we've been able to capitalize on prosperity, we just have not had it for whatever reason, and it's my job to find it,” Coale said. “It's my job to figure it out, and I have not been able to figure it out yet, how to change that. Obviously if I had been able to, I would have. “