It’s back to the drawing board for the Texas women, who now have the entire offseason to reminisce about a season marked by the occasional triumph and more common disappointment.
For the third year in a row, the Longhorns (19-14) bowed out in the first round of the NCAA tournament, this time with a heart-wrenching loss to No. 8-seed Marquette on Saturday, 68-65.
No stranger to close losses, the ninth-seeded Longhorns let it happen again — this time on a national stage in Knoxville, Tenn.
With less than a minute left in the game, Marquette’s Tatiyiana McMorris drained the go-ahead 3-pointer. Texas never got a shot off before time expired.
“Our defense broke down,” said Texas head coach Gail Goestenkors. “The play they ran at the end we knew was coming but didn’t do a good job switching out.”
The loss now marks the sixth game this season in which Texas lost by nine points or less, three of which were decided by three points or less.
Today, the Longhorns could have been preparing for a rematch against No. 1-seed Tennessee, but instead they are left with a season that could’ve been.
What if the Longhorns hadn’t lost sophomore Cokie Reed to injury last summer?
In no other game this season was it more evident how much the presence of Reed was missed.
With 10 minutes left in the first half, Texas clawed its way back after Marquette took an early lead. The Longhorns were in the driver’s seat for much of the game, leading by as many as nine points with a little more than 12 minutes to play.
But in order to win, Goestenkors said her team must play the full 40 minutes. Saturday, they played a good 33 of them.
What if the Longhorns hadn’t allowed their attacking ability to collapse?
With 6:58 left in the game, Marquette seized an opportunity to close the gap as McMorris found her rhythm, hitting a trey.
“I thought we played extremely hard, sometimes not well,” Goestenkors said. “I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t attack the basket more.”
While senior Kathleen Nash led her squad with 19 points, usual scoring threats such as juniors Ashley Gayle and Yvonne Anderson were kept at bay — Gayle tallied six points and Anderson had five.
On a bright note, Texas kept turnovers to a lowly 11 but countered it by shooting only 39 percent from the field.
“We had a few shots blocked. We stopped attacking for some reason, and that’s a huge part of our game,” Nash said. “We settled for outside jump shots. That was huge for us that we didn’t get those free throws.”
But for now, with their season finished, the Longhorns are left only with thoughts of what could’ve been.