Lady Horns Roll!
Moving on into the Sweet Sixteen for the second year in a row, the Horns pushed around and outmuscled the larger 10-seed Missouri Tigers in 73-55 demolition. Ariel Atkins scored 22 in the winning effort. Texas outscored – in the paint, 32-8 – and outrebounded the Tigers, who featured five six-footers in the starting lineup.
Last season, they made the Sixteen, but were blown out by 51 by eventual (perpetual) champion Connecticut. Though they may eventually meet the Huskies for a Final Four berth, the Horns must first take on skilled and lengthy No. 3 seed UCLA (Saturday, March 26, in Bridgeport, Conn. – ESPN), who've beaten South Florida and Hawaii on their path.
The Bitter End
The Longhorns will end up in the "One Shining Moment" montage – unfortunately, it will have been for the wrong reason. Their season ended with a bang – in the face – with Northern Iowa's Paul Jesperson banking in a half court heave of the ages. It was a tightly contested 75-72 loss, with twists and turns. The basketball gods absolutely could not have drawn it up any better, as a pure basketball game.
Texas' troubles with quick penetrating guards and lax three-point close-outs proved their Achilles heel. Cameron Ridley – clearly still wearing off the rust and diminished cardio – wasn't able to provide the dominant inside play.
Alas, all is not lost. Perhaps another round was possible, but the season – considering Ridley's injury and the team's relative youth – has to qualify as a success for first-year coach Shaka Smart, who must be excited for Texas' future. Five seniors, including Ridley and starters Javan Felix and Connor Lammert, are graduating.
Star point guard Isaiah Taylor will likely declare for the NBA draft, and run through its updated draft consideration process. This will allow him to declare (without an agent) and participate in the Draft Combine for full evaluation – a huge plus for players unsure of where they stand. He's currently a borderline first-round pick, but would benefit from improving his shooting during a potential senior year at Texas.