After NCAA Tournament wins against Western Kentucky and California, Texas lost to No. 1 seed Connecticut, 105–54, in the NCAA regional semifinal, ending its long season.
“It’s frustrating,” junior center Imani McGee-Stafford said. “To be that close is really frustrating. … Every play, every time you didn’t do what you could have done or what you were supposed to do is going to keep replaying until October.”
Texas never led at any point in the game and faced trouble on both ends of the court.
“Give credit to UConn … but today was just not a good day for us at all,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said.
The Longhorns struggled early to combat the Huskies’ length, shooting 27 percent from the field in the first half. UConn’s height forced Texas to turn over the ball 11 times and resulted in seven blocked shots in the first half. Texas pulled within 6 points midway through the half, but UConn went on a 27–5 run to extend its lead to 28 points at halftime.
UConn junior forward Breanna Stewart scored a season-high 31 points, with 20 coming in the opening half. Texas, as a team, tallied just 24 points in the first 20 minutes.
In the second half, the Huskies continued their shooting clinic, finishing with 13 3-pointers in the game. Texas’ 18 turnovers helped the Huskies grow their already commanding lead. UConn shot lights out — 56 percent from the field and 42 percent from behind the arc.
“They were hitting on all cylinders today,” said freshman guard Ariel Atkins, who led the team with 11 points. “You have to realize that they’re basketball players just like we’re basketball players, and you have to stand and stick together.”
Despite the defeat, Texas (24–11) had its best season, in terms of wins, since 2003–2004.
In a season riddled with injuries and other hardships, Texas defied the odds. The Longhorns started 4–8 in conference play but finished the year winning nine of 12 games.
Texas will only lose two players to graduation — Nneka Enemkpali and Krystle Henderson. They will have 13 scholarship players returning along with a strong incoming freshman class.
“I want the players to reflect back on the fact that there was a lot of adversity that they went through — but this was an experience I think they had to have to understand how to get to the next one,” Aston said. “I’m happy that we made another step with the program, and obviously, we need to take another giant one next year.”