Horns bow out in first round of conference tournament

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Sophomore guard Chelsea Bass (11) struggles to keep the ball away from a Texas Tech defender in the Longhorns’ 81-58 loss at the hands of the Red Raiders on Wednesday evening. Bass and the rest of the Longhorns now await seeding for the NCAA Tournament this Sunday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

After seemingly hitting their stride during a late-season push, the Longhorns reverted back to sloppy play and poor shooting to fall to Texas Tech 81-58 in the first round of the Big 12 conference tournament in Kansas City, Mo.

It was a game riddled with miscues from both sides. Texas was extremely active on defense, forcing 23 Red Raider turnovers, including 14 steals and five blocks. However, the Longhorns failed to take advantage of scoring opportunities in transition, and turned the ball over 17 times themselves.

Ultimately, the early exit could affect the Longhorns’ seeding or overall involvement in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

Nearly absent from the game all together was sophomore guard Chassidy Fussell. Although she played 32 minutes, she never found her stroke from the field, connecting on just 2-of-10 shots. Fussell was also unable to draw fouls and get to the free-throw line, where she has shot around 90 percent all season. Fusell finished the night with just five points, well below her season average.

Senior guard Ashleigh Fontenette’s team-high of 21 points went for naught as the Longhorns were held to just 25.3 percent shooting in the game. In contrast, the Red Raiders shot 44.1 percent on 16 fewer attempts than the Longhorns. Five Red Raiders scored in double figures, and senior post Kierra Mallard recorded a double-double with 11 points and 15 rebounds.

Texas role players such as sophomore guard Chelsea Bass and freshman post Nneka Enemkpali, who usually provide solid minutes off the bench to give the starters some rest, were also nowhere to be found against the Red Raiders. The duo combined for just two points and six rebounds.

One of the areas that Texas has been exposed in recently is team rebounding. Against the Red Raiders, who the Longhorns were 3-1 against in previous tournament games, the team pulled down just 37 rebounds compared to Tech’s 47. The Red Raiders were able to capitalize on missed shots and converted them to second chance points, whereas the Longhorns didn’t.

The Longhorns felt as if they had all but sewn up a spot in the 68-team NCAA Tournament field, but this latest loss could shine light on their less-than-stellar play against the conference’s toughest teams. Texas Tech may be the No. 9 seed in the Big 12 tournament, but they proved they belong after dismantling Texas Wednesday evening.

Now Texas is forced to wait the remainder of the week until Selection Sunday, where their fate will be decided by a committee that annually picks the nation’s 68 “best” teams to compete for the NCAA title.

The odds for Texas making the NCAA Tournament are favorable, but if the Longhorns don’t take care of the ball and shoot as poorly as they did against the Red Raiders, they could be looking at another premature exit from postseason play. Coach Gail Goestenkors hasn’t had much success leading the Longhorns in March, but their season isn’t quite over yet — or at least they hope so.

Printed on Thursday, March 8, 2012 as: Texas hammered by Texas Tech in Kansas City