LEXINGTON, Kentucky — Texas’ season began with a loss to Stanford and it ended the same way Friday night.
The Longhorns had a season-long goal of reaching the Final Four in Dallas, just 196 miles from their home base in Austin. But that dream was crushed as they came up short against the Cardinal in the Sweet 16, 77-66, in Rupp Arena.
“We just made a couple of mistakes,” head coach Karen Aston said. “And they made us pay for it. I think that's what gave them the confidence and maybe shattered ours a little bit. I didn't think we executed things at the level that you have to in the Sweet 16.”
Texas showed toughness and resiliency in the first half, erasing an early seven-point deficit to carry a 36-29 lead into halftime.
But it was all Stanford after that. The Cardinal took advantage of Texas’ poor 35.4 percent shooting in the second half and out-hustled the Longhorns for key rebounds down the stretch.
Texas’ powerful post presence, led by senior center Kelsey Lang and freshman forward Joyner Holmes, was no match for Stanford’s Erica McCall. The senior forward muscled her way to the basket for a game-high 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting and dominated the glass with 12 boards.
“I think we kind of got antsy,” junior guard Ariel Atkins said. “They did a good job of packing the paint on us.”
Only Atkins and Holmes scored in double digits for the Longhorns on a night in which the team’s leading scorer and ace three-point shooter, junior guard Brooke McCarty, scored just eight points and attempted only one shot from beyond the arc.
Tears streamed down Lang and Brianna Taylor’s faces when the buzzer sounded on the seniors’ final game in burnt orange.
Lang and Taylor wrapped up their collegiate careers with three consecutive trips to the Sweet 16 and each earned individual accolades during Texas’ 25-9 season. Lang became the 41st player in Texas history to reach 1,000 career points and Taylor earned the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
“Throughout my career here, we’ve encountered a lot of adversity,” Taylor said. “I couldn’t be prouder of Kelsey’s and my career here.”
Lang and Taylor’s senior class was the first one Aston recruited when she arrived on the 40 Acres in 2012 and the duo has helped return Texas to the national spotlight over the past four years.
“I can't say enough about those two,” Aston said. “And what kind of people they are and what kind of student-athletes they've been at Texas. When they came to Texas, I mean, we weren't very good, and they bought into a vision, and they trusted the vision throughout their career. When you look at what kind of leadership skills they've learned, what kind of young women they are now as they begin to think about walking across that stage in the spring, that's what I'm so proud of as a coach.”