3-22-08 -- Texas isn’t as highly regarded as it was in 2003, when it beat Minnesota en route to a Final Four appearance, but coach Gail Goestenkors certainly has the program on an upswing.
Back in the NCAA tournament for the first time in three years, the eighth-seeded Longhorns face the ninth-seeded Golden Gophers in the Greensboro Regional at Bridgeport, Conn. on Sunday night.
Texas (22-9) was once a perennial powerhouse under Hall of Fame coach Jody Conradt, but it failed to make the tournament in her last two seasons. Conradt resigned the night the Longhorns were passed over last year, and Goestenkors was hired away from Duke to rebuild the program.
Goestenkors has helped Texas get back to the tournament after leading the Blue Devils to 13 appearances in 15 seasons.
“Hopefully, this is the beginning of a new tradition,” Goestenkors said. “It’s meant so much to me to see where we were and how far we’ve come.”
This is the Longhorns’ first tournament appearance since 2005, when they lost to Georgia in the second round. They haven’t faced the Golden Gophers (20-11) since March 30, 2003, beating Minnesota 73-60 in the round of 16 before losing to eventual-champion Connecticut in the Final Four.
Texas was on pace to get back to the tournament last season, but lost 10 of its last 15 games. The Longhorns appeared to be headed for another collapse this season, losing nine of 13 contests from Jan. 9-Feb. 24, but they regrouped to win five straight—including victories over fellow Big 12 NCAA tournament participants Oklahoma and Baylor—before falling to Oklahoma State 75-72 on March 13 in the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament.
Despite a 7-9 conference record, Texas’ NCAA tournament credentials were boosted by six wins over ranked teams.
“Last year, with coach Conradt retiring, it was so sad. It was very upsetting,” Longhorns junior forward Ashley Lindsey said. “We’re all excited to make it.”
Lindsey is averaging 11.2 points, and leads Texas with 6.9 rebounds and 2.7 blocks a contest. Longhorns guard Brittainey Raven, meanwhile, is averaging a team-high 15.4 points and 1.8 steals.
Raven will be matched up with Minnesota’s Brittany McCoy, who averages 4.2 assists. McCoy is part of a backcourt that includes first-team all-Big Ten selection Emily Fox, who posts 17.0 points, 4.2 assists and 2.5 steals per contest.
Fox, though, was held to seven points on 2-of-14 shooting in a 56-51 loss to Michigan State on March 7 in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament. The Gophers missed 21 of their first 22 shots, and ended up making just 25.9 percent (14-for-54) of their attempts.
Minnesota has lost three of its last five contests, shooting under 40 percent in each of the losses. But the Gophers won 18 of their first 26 games, helping them get back to the tournament after a one-year absence.
They made the tournament in each of their previous five seasons under coach Pam Borton.
Minnesota is 10-6 in six prior tournament appearances, while Texas has gone 31-20 in its previous 21 showings. The Longhorns have won all three of their meetings with the Gophers.
The winner will face top-seeded Connecticut or No. 16 seed Cornell on Tuesday.