FORT WORTH, Texas — The Texas women's basketball thwarted a late TCU scoring run and closed out the regular season with a 69-60 victory Sunday afternoon at Schollmaier Arena.
The victory closed out the Longhorns' regular-season record at 17-8 overall, and 11-7 in games against Big 12 teams, while TCU fell to 9-14 overall, and 4-14 in conference games.
Texas earned the No. 5 seed in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women's Basketball Championship in Kansas City, Mo. The Longhorns earned a first-round bye and will open postseason play at 10:30 a.m. Friday, March 12, against No. 4 seed Iowa State in a game that can be seen on ESPNU.
The Longhorns swept their two matchups this season against the Cyclones, who crushed Kansas Sunday, 83-53, to finish the regular season with a 16-9 overall record, including a 12-6 mark against the rest of the Big 12.
Texas head coach Vic Schaefer said after the game that while his team's performance was not always perfect, the end result is what ultimately matters.
"I thought we competed and battled all night," Schaefer said. "We got a little fatigued at the end, but it is what it is. Nothing has changed. We just need to keep fighting through these times. My job is to get them home, and tonight we got home."
Texas held a 58-40 lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but the Horned Frogs had fuel left in the tank. Texas forward/center Charli Collier got a jumper to fall 21 seconds into the final period, extending the Horns' lead to 20, but TCU fought back, mounting a 14-0 run. Texas guard/forward Audrey Warren sank a free throw to break the Horns' scoring drought that spanned 5:04, but a Tavy Diggs layup with 4:26 to play put TCU within six points, at 60-54.
"I can't play for them," Schaefer said. "I thought we [as a coaching staff] put [our team] in some positions and tried to get them to go back to being aggressive. Again, we've got some young players that aren't real experienced. Our decision making is shaky sometimes."
The Horns showed their resiliency and countered from the free-throw line late, going 7-of-10 from the charity stripe in the final four minutes, as TCU intentionally fouled in an attempt to close gap.
"It took us a little while to settle down and get back to being aggressive," Schaefer said. "When we did, we got back to the free throw line."
With six days to prepare, UT lurched out of the gates, going on a 13-0 run midway through the opening quarter. The offense came easily for the Longhorns, who shot 52 percent in the first, and led for all but 52 seconds.
Texas held a 21-10 lead as the second quarter began, and the advantage swelled to 18 on a Lauren Ebo free throw with 5:28 to go in the first half. Though TCU scored seven points in just over a minute late in the first half, the Longhorns held a commanding 43-27 lead at the half.
Throughout the season, the third quarter had been one in which the Horns often struggled, but they came out of the locker room with confidence on the offensive end. Texas made 54 percent of its shots in the third, outscoring TCU, 15-13. Warren, who finished her high school career in Fort Worth, carried the Longhorns on both ends of the floor, scoring six points.
Warren, who struggled to see the court last season, was one of four guards who started Sunday for Texas. The junior scored 18 points, which tied Collier for the team lead, and had 12 rebounds.
Perhaps Warren's biggest play of the afternoon came with 3:00 left on the clock, when she drilled a jumper from the corner to extend UT's lead to 63-56.
"She made a big jump shot in the corner," Schaefer said. "They had cut it to five and she made a jump shot down there on the baseline that we really needed."
Collier, who announced her decision to forego her senior season and enter into the 2021 WNBA Draft shortly after the victory, also tallied a double-double with 18 points and 13 boards.
"You just got to go turn it loose," Schaefer said of the upcoming conference tournament. "You can't look to the top of the mountain. You got to take every step step-by-step. You start looking at the top, that's when you're going to misstep and fall to the bottom. You just got to take it one day at a time, one game at a time.
"If you look up and you're playing on Sunday, then you've done your job. But you can't get to Sunday if you're looking at Sunday and playing on Friday."