As the Longhorns’ conference schedule begins to wind down, they once again find themselves in need of a signature win to enhance their odds of making the NCAA Tournament.
A win over consensus No. 1 Baylor tonight in Waco could do wonders for Texas’ NCAA Tournament hopes. The Bears are riding a 27-game winning streak, which would be a 38-game streak had the Bears not lost to Texas A&M in last year’s National Championship game.
“If you are going to compete against a great team like Baylor, you have to have everyone show up and play,” said Texas head coach Gail Goestenkors. “You have to be energized, be focused and be confident.”
Baylor already had its way with Texas after a dominant 77-59 victory over the Longhorns in Austin on Jan. 15. Brittney Griner continued her barrage on NCAA record books with a 32-point, 13-rebound performance to lead all scorers. The Bears opened the game on a 19-0 run, scored 58 points in the paint and held the Longhorns to just 33 percent shooting, stifling any upset bid the Longhorns had in mind.
Adding insult to injury (literally) was the absence of sophomore post Cokie Reed. She was unable to play in the first meeting with Baylor due to a strained right leg suffered in practice leading up to the game.
“The absence of Cokie was a big loss for us,” Goestenkors said. “All of the bodies you can get against Brittney [Griner] are helpful.”
Griner, the Bears’ leading scorer at 22.9 points per game, will be the focus of the Longhorns’ defense. She was very active on the offensive glass in the first game against the Longhorns this year, grabbing seven offensive rebounds, which led to 18 second chance points. Griner also displayed her shot-blocking prowess, swatting three Longhorn shots. Griner’s innate feel for the game and elite size allow her to score with ease, and she is very difficult for teams to stop.
“I think you have to recognize that Griner is a 6-foot-9 post player,” said senior guard Yvonne Anderson. “There is not much you can do with that. You just have to make sure that she does not get more than her usual, and you have to contain everyone else.”
Reed’s return, as well as the recent play of fellow post Anne Marie Hartung, have the Longhorns hoping things will go a little differently this time around.
“[Cokie] is really good offensive player,” said senior post Ashley Gayle. “[She] is taller and has a height advantage over a lot of players. I think that we have a lot of depth in the post position now, and we have more tools to attack with.”