The Texas Longhorns are dancing their way into the Elite Eight after stunning the Maryland Terrapins, 64-61, in a matchup in which the No. 2 seed was heavily-favored to win.
Charli Collier led the Longhorn charge with 16 points and 11 rebounds, but it was the inspired play of guard Celeste Taylor, who finished with 15 points and 11 boards, that paced the team to the finish. They are the lowest seed, at No. 6, still remaining in the Tournament.
The Terps ran out to a 9-0 start and were up 18-12 at the end of the first quarter. But Texas fought back in the next frame and were within seven points at the break.
Longhorn Vic Schaefer laid out adjustments in the locker room.
“At halftime, we talked about it’s 32-25, and I wrote as few notes as I’ve ever written,” he said. “Defensively, it was transition defense. We can guard them on the half court. We really believed that. We just had to get back. Then offensively we just had to keep attacking. We felt like we had some areas we could explore and kind of take advantage of.”
Texas stepped up their defense – something Schaefer has hung his hat on the last nine years, as the former coach at Mississippi State. In limiting their options, Maryland struggled to score. Then with 2:51 remaining in the third period, the Longhorns grabbed their first lead of the game, 44-43.
“They were blowing up screens, a lot of talk,” said Terp forward Chloe Bibby, who played for Schaefer at State before transferring to Maryland. “Honestly, I thought our defense was really good too. I thought we played some really good sequences of 30 seconds of great defense. We couldn’t execute at the other end.”
The Longhorns’ fourth-quarter rally and clutch stops down the stretch sealed the win. Diamond Miller led three Terps in double figures, with 21 points.
Taylor said her team embraced the underdog role.
“From the beginning, since when we got in this tournament, people continue to not say our names. People continue to not bring us up in conversation,” she said. “I think from the beginning, we know what we have on this team. We know when we’re locked down and focused what we can do. We know when we play together, we know what we can do together.”
Maryland coach Brenda Frese said the youth of her team was a factor in the loss.
“I think you saw some inexperience today with our team,” she said. “I mean, the credit goes to Texas. I thought they were physical, they were aggressive, they turned it into a game of defense and rebounding. I thought ultimately they made one or two more plays in the fourth quarter that were the difference.”
Texas will face South Carolina Tuesday for a trip to the Final Four.