KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Texas women's basketball head coach Vic Schaefer fought back tears as he sat down for his postgame press conference on Friday.
In what Schaefer labeled "a gutsy effort," the No. 5 seed Longhorns prevailed in overtime in the Phillips 55 Big 12 Championship quarterfinals, defeating No. 4 seed Iowa State, 84-82.
The victory earned Texas a duel with top-seeded Baylor at noon Saturday in the semifinals.
"I've been doing this a long time, and I don't remember seeing a more gutsy effort from a group of kids than this group today," Schaefer said. "I am beyond proud of our resilience, our toughness, our competitive spirit."
Those three qualities were spotlighted in the narrow victory, especially in overtime.
Texas guard Ashley Chevalier knocked down a three-pointer to begin the five-minute extra period, putting the Horns in front, 72-69. Although the Cyclones countered with a layup to cut the margin to one 23 seconds later, the Longhorns never surrendered the lead.
Iowa State made five shots in the extra period, four coming from behind the arc. After Texas guard Celeste Taylor made two free throws off an intentional Iowa State foul, the Cyclones' Emily Ryan made a three from the left corner to trim the Texas lead to just one. Longhorn guard Kyra Lambert made one of two free throws with two seconds left, but Iowa State had little time to push the ball up the floor, and failed to get a shot off before the buzzer sounded through the arena.
"Kyra was 3-of-4 (from the line), and if you're going to miss one, she missed the right one there at the end when there's not enough time to get full court to make that shot," Schaefer said.
Schaefer said he saw a world of difference between the way his team finished Friday, compared to the way the Longhorns lost their home finale two weeks ago to Oklahoma.
"We went to overtime against Oklahoma and I didn't see a lot in their eyes leading into that overtime," Schaefer said. "When we got in the huddle (today before overtime) Joanne (Allen-Taylor) was like 'This is our game' and had that look in her eyes. The rest of them chimed in, and I feel like we're growing. It is one thing to talk the talk, it is another thing to walk the walk."
The Longhorns "walked the walk" against the Cyclones despite playing with a roster of eight, four of them newcomers. Forward Audrey Warren and guard Karisma Ortiz were unavailable, and will not return during the tournament.
The Horns went the entire overtime period without forward/center Charli Collier, who fouled out late in the fourth quarter and finished with 17 points.
In turn, the guards stepped up in a big way for Texas, not just in overtime but throughout the course of the contest. Allen-Taylor and Lambert each played the full 45 minutes. Lambert scored a team-high 23 points and Allen-Taylor 20. Chevalier and Taylor each had 11 points; Chevalier added a game-high four steals.
"I've been seeing our guards shoot it better and I knew at some point we were going to start shooting the ball a little better," Schaefer said. "(We) went 13-of-34 from three today, which I'll take. We shot 38 percent from three. That's good. That's about 56, 58, getting close to 60 (percent) from two."
The back-and-forth nature of the contest reflected the idea of postseason play, with a "win or go home" mentality for every team in the tournament.
Iowa State outscored the Horns, 19-18, in the opening quarter, though Texas ended the second on a 7-0 run against the Cyclones' zone defense.
With UT leading 32-27 at the half, Collier opened the third quarter with a jumper and Allen-Taylor followed with a long three, extending the Longhorns' lead to 37-31. Texas led by as many as nine points, and held a 51-45 advantage as the final quarter began.
Iowa State, which lost twice to the Longhorns during the regular season, did not go down quietly, mounting an 8-0 run midway through the fourth. Solid defense and accurate shooting put the Cyclones back into the game, as they took a 59-58 lead on a layup from Ryan with 4:25 left, and added two additional free throws 26 seconds later to go up 61-58. A three by Lambert tied it up for the Longhorns seconds later.
Allen-Taylor invigorated her teammates before the late push that earned Texas the win.
"I don't know if it takes a lot to do that," Allen-Taylor said of her leadership in the huddle before overtime. "A competitor wants to win and they want to bring their teammates up with them and you say whatever to get them ready, to get them together so we can go battle. It is our time in OT."
Texas faces Baylor for the third time this season at 12 p.m. Saturday in a game that will be broadcast on Big 12 Now on ESPN+. The Horns fell to the Lady Bears twice during the regular season.