Western Kentucky

Junior center Imani McGee-Stafford lays the ball up against Oklahoma. McGee-Stafford finished with 11 points and 10 boards as Texas advances to the Big 12 tournament conference finals.
Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Texas has become quite familiar with deficits this season. But down by 6 points late in the second half Friday, Texas started to streak.

With the game tied with less than 20 seconds to go, a Lady Toppers foul sent freshman guard Brooke McCarty to the charity stripe, where she sank both free throws to help Texas hang on to a 66-64 victory over Western Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

“I told our players after the game that this was obviously a hard-fought win, and it was nothing to be ashamed of that it went to the wire because I was so impressed by [Western Kentucky] … ,” head coach Karen Aston said. “I knew they would present problems for us from a matchup perspective.”

The game featured 10 lead changes, with each team leading for about 18 minutes each. Texas’s defense held the Lady Toppers to 29 percent shooting in the opening period, but 13 first-half turnovers by the Longhorns kept the game close early.

“We stopped turning the ball over in the second half and started attacking and that was really ultimately the difference, Aston said. “I am proud of our players for holding in there, and it wasn't easy with first-game jitters. I thought we really held in there.”

Junior center Imani McGee-Stafford, who started against Western Kentucky, picked up a double-double, scoring a season-high 24 points and grabbing 15 boards. She said the game scenario seemed all too familiar.

“We were in the huddle in the last four minutes, and I just kept thinking to myself, ‘We've been here before. We've been here before. We've come back from 6 or 8 points with just a little bit of time left,’” McGee-Stafford said. “So I think it's good knowing that we are able to come back, and we have the experience from games earlier in the season.”

Texas has come from behind to win in multiple games this season. Aston's lineup change gave the Longhorns NCAA tournament experience, as Friday’s starting five was the 12th different lineup in 33 games this season.

“I think because of the experience we have, we know how hard we have to push because we have lost games like this,” McCarty said. “So we just thought back to those games every time we were in the huddle, and we just pushed and pushed and pushed, and we came out with the win.”

The first-round win gives the Longhorns their 23rd victory of the season, the team’s most since the 2003-2004 season.

“I think getting this win under our belt is a great confidence booster for this team, and obviously, every game we can play is a positive for this program,” Aston said.

The Longhorns look to continue their momentum into the second round, as they face No. 4 California at 8 p.m. Sunday on ESPN2. The winner moves on to the Sweet 16.

Junior center Imani McGee-Stafford lays the ball up against Oklahoma. McGee-Stafford finished with 11 points and 10 boards as Texas advances to the Big 12 tournament conference finals.
Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Selection Monday has come and gone, and the Longhorns are officially going dancing. 

Texas (2210) found out it is the No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament in the Albany Region. The Longhorns will travel to Berkeley, California, to face No.12 Western Kentucky (30–4) in the first round.  

The two-time defending Conference USA champion Hilltoppers held off Southern Mississippi, 6057, on Sunday. 

Western Kentucky has a strong history in the NCAA tournament, having reached the Final Four three times, including a national championship appearance in 1992.

Texas is coming off a 7564 loss in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women's Basketball Championship final to now five-time champion Baylor. This will be the second-straight NCAA tournament appearance by Texas.

A victory in the opening round for the Longhorns would solidify the most wins the team has had since the 2003–2004 season. That team made a Sweet 16 appearance.

The Albany Region plays host to a slew of teams from Kentucky and the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed, UConn. 

Friday’s opening round matchup between Texas and Western Kentucky is scheduled to tip off at 4 p.m. on ESPN 2. The winner plays either No. 4 California or No. 13 Wichita State on Sunday.