For the second season in a row, the Texas Longhorns have lost in the Elite Eight.
This time, the loss came against Stanford, the defending national champions and a team that Texas had already defeated once this season.
So, what happened?
Defense — Stanford's defense.
Texas kept Sunday's game close throughout, but there was one period during the second half where it just felt like every trip down the floor was resulting in a Cameron Brink block.
Brink was everywhere on the defensive end, using her length to disrupt drives and post ups. The biggest concern with this Texas team all year has been the center position, as the team has gotten sporadic contributions from a host of players. Aaliyah Moore has looked like the team's best big over the last few weeks, but foul trouble limited her to just 10 minutes of action. Lauren Ebo played most of the game and was viewed as the best option the team had at the five, someone who could use her strength to negate the Stanford size advantage, but she finished 0-for-6 from the floor. DeYona Gaston was 0-for-2.
The backcourt duo of Rori Harmon and Joanne Allen-Taylor was fine, but the fact that Aliyah Matharu only played 12 minutes limited some of the offensive things that Texas could have done. But you also needed those two in there for their defense — and on that side, things mostly worked out for the Horns.
Overall, there's a lot to build on from this Texas team, but Sunday showed that it has its limitations against elite opponents. My biggest worry all year was that Texas would have the defense to win a title, but it would hit a wall offensively. Shooting just 30.8 percent from inside the arc feels like that wall.
Though, Texas also could have still won if it just made its free throws. Is Vic Schaefer building something that can win these grind-it-out type games on the big stage? If Moore can take a big step forward next year, the biggest hole on this team will be shored up, and with another season under Rori Harmon's belt, Texas is going to be dangerous.
As for what Texas loses after this season:
Lauren Ebo, Joanne Allen-Taylor and Audrey Warren are all seniors. Those are key pieces who played 30-plus minutes against Stanford. Warren is a multi-tool wing who throws herself around the floor. Ebo is a solid piece in the frontcourt. Allen-Taylor is that veteran leadership and scoring that this team needs.
Texas will need to find a way to regroup with those players gone. Maybe we'll see a couple of freshmen from this year's team — Kyndall Hunter and Latasha Lattimore — take steps forward. Maybe one of the three incoming top 100 freshmen will instantly step into a key role. Maybe the transfer portal will bring in a few new faces.
But the blueprint's there for Texas. And while the team lost Sunday, it was an encouraging game for the Longhorns.