Longhorns face must-win situation tonight

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For Texas head coach Gail Goestenkors, finishing the regular season off strong was the ultimate goal. But when her squad went 1-1 in its last two games, the Longhorns’ outlook on their future needed some revising.

“I think if we go 1-1, then it’s leaving it in someone else’s hands to determine our fate,” Goestenkors said. “I think to get that bid we need to win at least two games [in the tournament].”

With a roller coaster of a regular season behind them, Texas is poised to claw its way into the NCAA tournament. First, the Longhorns, who sit at the No. 7 seed, must set their focus on tonight’s first-round matchup against 10th-seeded Missouri (13-17, 5-11).

In a conference filled with immense talent, the Longhorns are remaining focused on the task at hand.

“We’ve been the best conference in the country every year I’ve been in the league, and every year it just gets better and better,” Goestenkors said. “The depth from top to bottom is just unmatched.”

This year marks the third-straight that Texas has faced Mizzou in the first round of the Big 12 Championship. The Longhorns hope to push their winning streak in tournament contests to 4-0 against Missouri tonight.

Winning has not come easily for Texas as of late. After losing its final regular season match up, Texas needs to build on its strengths in hopes of advancing in the tournament.

For the Longhorns, recent strengths have come in the form of individual performances including the likes of junior Yvonne Anderson.

The guard has been averaging a team-best 19.5 points per game in Texas’ last four regular-season games. She also pulled down an impressive 6.5 rebounds per game. In her last game out, she tallied a game-high 21 points, registering her fourth-straight game in double-digits.

“[Anderson] always had the skills and the talent, and this year she’s been getting a lot more playing time,” Goestenkors said. “What I am most proud of is now she can take criticism and understand it. It makes her better and she’s able to get herself refocused.”

Tonight’s game also coincides with Anderson’s 21st birthday.

While looking toward the future has been crucial for Texas, the squad must look back on its last matchup against Missouri in which it was upset 85-80 in overtime.

The Longhorns’ steady control of much of the game was erased, as mistakes became their demise. Turnovers plagued Texas yet again, and a lackluster defensive effort in the second half allowed the Tigers to pull off the upset.

Missouri senior RaeShara Brown leads the Tigers averaging 16.8 points per game and 5.9 rebounds.

Both squads’ head coaches have acknowledged the difficulty of their league. Tonight, the Longhorns’ season hinges on a victory.

“You look at just how close of a dogfight it’s been jockeying for seating, it’s been an interesting year,” said Missouri head coach Robin Pingeton. “Great coaches, great players; it’s a great conference. It will certainly prove to be an interesting Big 12 tournament.”