How the second weekend of the WBB tournament spelled doom for Texas schools

Three Texas schools entered the Sweet 16, but by the time the weekend was over, none remained.

So, how did Baylor, Texas A&M, and Texas have their tournaments ended before the Final Four? Let's take a look at each team and the primary reasons why they lost.

 

Baylor: DiDi Richards gets hurt, plus that controversial foul call

The Lady Bears played the most exciting game of the tournament on Monday against UConn, but they weren't able to finish things off and get past the Huskies.

For much of that game, it looked like Baylor would take out the one-loss Huskies, whose Paige Bueckers was named the AP Women's Player of the Year on Wednesday. Baylor's Dijonai Carrington was having a huge game, and the interior duo of NaLyssa Smith and Queen Egbo was playing well against UConn's formidable frontcourt. Defensively, the Lady Bears were slowing down the Huskies enough.

But then in the third quarter, Baylor's DiDi Richards went down with a hamstring injury. While she briefly returned to the game, it was clear that she shouldn't have been back in, and she was quickly subbed back out and didn't return.

And what did UConn do once Richards was hurt? Just went on a game-changing 19-0 run that erased a sizable Baylor lead.

But in the fourth quarter, Baylor — aided by some missed UConn free throws — still had a chance to win it. Down one in the final minute, Baylor ran a play where they didn't get the ball to their bigs, instead inbounding it to Freshman Sarah Andrews, who eventually gave it up to Carrington. The senior drove inside, missed a contested shot, and Baylor was handed the loss.

Except, well...

It sure looked like Carrington was fouled by two different UConn defenders on that play!

Sure, Baylor could have prevented that from mattering if they'd made a couple more free throws or made a stop during that UConn run, but the Richards injury really deflated this Baylor defense, fueling the Huskies comeback.

Texas A&M: This team still needed a go-to perimeter player

In the second round, Jordan Nixon came up huge in an overtime win over Iowa State, hitting the game-winning layup in overtime. But after two close games to open the tournament, the Aggies couldn't get past Arizona in the Sweet 16.

A&M's struggles in this tournament were a surprise, but maybe they shouldn't have been. The Aggies only lost two games all season, but were only 21st in net points per game. This was a deep team that won games because they were so talented, but they were also 330th in the country in 3-point attempt rate. They lacked that go-to player you need on the perimeter to get you wins in March.

It looked like Nixon was on her way to being that player, but Arizona held her to three points on 1-for-6 shooting. Aaliyah Wilson and Kayla Wells combined for 31 points, but 31 is also how many points Arizona's Aari McDonald had on her own. The Wildcats made 13 threes to A&M's two. McDonald was unstoppable.

Ciera Johnson and N'dea Jones both had efficient games inside for the Aggies, but they just needed that extra push on the outside. I know a lot of people thought Minnesota transfer Destiny Pitts could be that player, but Pitts scored a total of 10 points in the whole tournament.

 

Texas: They played South Carolina

The Longhorns overachieved in the NCAA Tournament, making it all the way to the Elite Eight. Unlike Baylor and Texas A&M, no one thought Texas was a Final Four team this season.

This is a team that's in a transition year in Vic Schaefer's first season at the helm in Austin. Sug Sutton, Sophie Taylor, Lashaan Higgs, Jada Underwood, and Joyner Holmes all graduated from last year's team. Schaefer hasn't really had the chance to put his own recruiting stamp on the program yet. There were five Freshman on this current roster.

So, yeah, this wasn't a championship team. But behind some strong play from center Charli Collier and some really good perimeter defense, the Longhorns kept winning games. Even when Collier struggled, the guard play of Celeste Taylor, Joanne Allen-Taylor and Kyra Lambert kept them going.

But against South Carolina, that defense couldn't sustain things, and after a scoreless fourth quarter for the Horns, the team lost 62-34. Collier continued to struggle against good centers. The guards never got going offensively. And while the defense managed to hold South Carolina to over 10 points less than their season average, there's not a ton you can do when you score 34 points. It was a lot like the team's 60-35 loss to Baylor: the defense just suffocated Texas, keeping them from getting into a rhythm.

That will change as the Schaefer era continues. But for now, his first year in Austin goes down as a success.

 

Rice Won the WNIT, by the way!

Oh a bright note, Rice was the WNIT champions. And considering how the last two WNIT champs made the Elite Eight this year, maybe this will bode well for the Owls next year, assuming they can find a way to replace Nancy Mulkey's production.

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