Longhorns look to make it six in a row against #8 Tennessee

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Senior center Ashley Gayle (22) puts up a shot in the lane against Alcorn State this season. Gayle recently became the school’s all-time leader in blocks and is a presence down low.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns are heating up and their timing couldn’t be any better.

Texas has now won five consecutive games, including a come-from-behind victory over California this past weekend to clinch the Waikiki Rainbow Wahine Showdown Championship in Honolulu.

The team is expecting more of the same heading into Sunday’s match up against the No. 8 Tennessee Lady Volunteers (3-2) in Knoxville.

“Texas Fight, that’s the tradition around here,” said senior post Ashley Gayle. “You keep fighting. No matter what the score, we keep fighting back. That’s what Texas basketball is all about.”

Since dropping their home opener 72-59 against No. 5 Stanford (5-1), the team has adopted the slogan “together or not at all,” and have displayed a will to win that is rare from such a young group.

“We have heart that just doesn’t give up,” Gayle said. “It’s so easy to get down when you miss a shot or when you mess up a play but we’ve all been very positive. Play after play we’re talking to each other, staying in the game and not being so concerned with our own mistakes. That’s what’s so good about this team.”

Head coach Gail Goestenkors likes what she is seeing from the team, and thought this past weekend’s victory over the Golden Bears was a great example of her team’s resilience.

“It was a perfect game because we had to fight back so many times,” Goestenkors said. “We kept fighting, we stayed together as a team and that’s what great teams do. This was so important for us to see how are we going to respond in the tough times. It’s easy to respond when everybody’s hitting their threes, high-fiving and all that fun stuff, but today we had to fight. Today we were champions.”

Sophomore Chassidy Fussell, last year’s team leader in scoring, also appears to be hitting her stride just in time for Sunday afternoon’s important game.

Fussell scored a career high 30 points against Virginia to open the Showdown and was named tournament MVP. She was also named Big 12 Player of the Week for her first time on Monday after averaging 20 points, 3.7 rebounds and shooting 50 percent from the field for the week.

“She’s a great player,” Goestenkors said. “We knew it was just a matter of time before she started hitting her shots. She’s also very confident, so she’s not somebody who’s easily shaken. Now that she’s hitting her shots we feel like she’s going to be real confident.”