Celina Rodrigo

Junior center Imani McGee-Stafford throws up a shot in Texas’ 75–64 loss to Baylor in the Big 12 Championship game. McGee-Stafford scored 15 points and had 10 rebounds against the Bears.
Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

After a long, injury-prone season, the Longhorns returned to Austin just shy of a Big 12 title.  

For the first time since 2004, Texas advanced to the Big 12 Championships finals, defeating Oklahoma and TCU along the way, but the Longhorns fell to Baylor, 75–64, Monday night at the American Airlines Center. 

“First of all, I just want to say how proud I am of our basketball team,” head coach Karen Aston said. “I’m very, very proud, but I’m disappointed we didn’t play better tonight.”

No. 1-seeded Baylor started with a six-point lead on No. 6-seeded Texas, but the Longhorns soon got on the board. They traded 6–0 runs to start things off before the Bears pulled away.Several key drives and three pointers from Junior guards Celina Rodrigo and Brady Sanders kept Texas in play in the first 20 minutes, and the Longhorns went into halftime behind, 40–35.

But two minutes into the second half, Baylor increased its halftime lead to nine ahead of Texas, who was the preseason favorite to win the conference title. But with the help of Baylor’s Nina Davis and Imani Wright, who each had 14 points halfway through the second half, the Bears’ lead grew to 18 after a four-minute Texas scoring drought. 

Baylor eventually went on to claim its fifth consecutive — and seventh overall — Big 12 title.

“Baylor was more efficient tonight in every area,” Aston said. “When they’re shooting pretty well, it’s hard to beat them.”

Junior center Imani McGee-Stafford led the Longhorns in scoring, putting 15 on the board and grabbing 10 rebounds. Junior guard Empress Davenport was the only other Longhorn to score in the double digits with 13.

“I haven’t beaten Baylor yet,” McGee-Stafford said. “At the end of the day, they put more points up. This game was frustrating because obviously we wanted a championship.”

The Longhorns still has the NCAA Tournament which begins on March 20, ahead of them. Texas will find out what position they are seeded on March 16.  

“I think we’re all pretty confident [on going into NCAA],” said Rodrigo. “We’re going to build on this.”

Texas junior forward Nneka Enemkapli recorded her 14th career double-double in a 96-42 win over Texas State on Wednesday evening.

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

In what head coach Karen Aston called “more of a complete game” than the team’s season opener, Texas beat Texas State 96-42 in the Longhorns’ highest scoring game since 2010. 

Junior forward Nneka Enemkpali combined 8-for-15 shooting from the field with a perfect mark at the line to lead all scorers with 22 points and 17 rebounds. The game marked her 14th career double-double.

“We were playing as more of a collective group tonight and able to put two games together,” Enemkpali said. “In our scrimmages, we play well on offensive but will not quite be there on defense yet, or the other way around. Tonight, we had a better showing putting the two games together.”

Sophomore center Imani McGee-Stafford returned to her starting position, and she and senior guard Chassidy Fussell supported Enemkpali’s offensive effort. The duo notched 14 and 15 points respectively. But it was the less conventional stars that brought a twist to the game.

As the clock ticked below a minute remaining in the first half, sophomore guard Celina Rodrigo sunk a three-point shot. Her 15-point effort surpassed her previous season high.

“I took what the defense gave me,” Rodrigo said. “We were able to penetrate a lot because they left the middle open.

But Enemkpali thinks Rodrigo showed more than just a response to lenient defense. She attributes Rodrigo’s performance to maturity and confidence.

“She used to take it personally when coach got onto her and she couldn’t recover,” Enemkpali said. “This year, she has a different swagger and a different confidence that you can see on the court when she’s playing.”

Toward the end of the game, an endearing crowd cheered on senior guard Helen Tau, who stepped onto the charity stripe with 16 seconds left in the game against the Bobcats. Tau never left the sideline last season, not because of poor play, but because she was serving as team manager for the 2012-13 season. But when injuries shortened the roster in the offseason, Aston gave Tau a chance. Tau notched her first collegiate point Wednesday. 

“Last year, [Tau] served on a volunteer basis and her commitment level was phenomenal,” Aston said. “When we didn’t have enough players in practice to scrimmage, Helen has an opportunity to try out and did really, really well.”

Texas resumes play Tuesday at New Mexico at 8 p.m. before returning home for a Nov. 23 matchup against Stanford.

Half-By-Half

First Half: Texas was struck with turnovers and inconsistent play as it let Iowa State end the half with a 14-0 run and a first-half 39-24 in favor of the Cyclones. The Longhorns made only 33.3 percent from the floor while they let the Cyclones shoot 53.6 percent. Anna Prins, at 6-foot-7, led Iowa State with 14 points while freshman Empress Davenport led her squad with seven. The Longhorns also had a tough time controlling the parameter as they let Iowa State make 53.8 percent of their three-point shots.  

Second Half: The Longhorns came out looking for a spark to get their third straight win. While they improved on both sides of the ball, the Cyclones were able to keep the young team at bay. Celina Rodrigo, coming off just two points in the first half, came out hot and finished the second half with eight more points. However, finishing with a 49.0 shooting percentage, the Cyclones ended the game with a 16-4 run to claim the victory. 

Stock Up

The freshman duo of Davenport and Rodrigo led the Longhorns on offense- Davenport finished with 13 points on the night while Rodrigo had season-high 10 on the night. The pair, which averaged 35 minutes of playing time on the night, kept Texas alive in the first part of the second half as they made big shots.

Stock Down

Nneka Enemkpali- Toward the middle of the first half, Enemkpali got tangled up with an Iowa State player and was slow to get up. After that, she seemed to move at half-pace and had trouble making shots. The sophomore, who is usually the points leader for the Longhorns, ended up with just six points and five rebounds. 

By the Numbers:

10: Texas was held to just 10 points in the paint. Enemkpali and Imani McGee-Stafford were held to just 11 combined points which shut out the Longhorns’ main source of points down low.

20: In their nine wins this season, the Longhorns have held their opponents to just 29 percent shooting from the floor. In Wednesday’s game, Texas allowed 20 percent greater shooting, allowing 49 percent. 

The Longhorns now look to Saturday night when they will face No. 1 ranked Baylor (21-1, 11-0 20-1, 10-0). This is the first game between Texas and the Bears after Baylor won the national championship last spring.