Texas has not won a game of this magnitude since the Longhorns defeated No. 1-ranked Tennessee 74-59 in 2004.
For many reasons, though, Monday night’s 85-79 victory over No. 2 Baylor at the Ferrell Center was far more significant than that victory over the Lady Vols. Texas had lost its 14 previous games to Baylor by an average of 17.4 points. The last time Texas beat Baylor — March 7, 2010 — the Bears’ Brittney Griner was serving a two-game suspension for punching a Texas Tech player in the face.
Publicly, Texas coach Karen Aston downplayed the significance of Monday’s nationally televised upset. “We haven’t won anything yet,” she told roughly 20 reporters in her post-game news conference.
That was the coach’s way of telling her players they cannot rest on one milestone. What good is beating Baylor if they lose to Kansas or Iowa State?
Big 12 success comes first. The Longhorns have won only one outright Big 12 regular-season championship (2003) and one conference tournament championship (also 2003). Monday’s win does not guarantee any such titles this year.
But the Longhorns gained something just as important. The biggest win of Aston’s five years here makes Texas relevant again. The Longhorns will be included when there’s discussion about the best teams in the Big 12. It also shows the rest of the country that UT’s revival is just getting started.
Freshman Joyner Holmes played her best game of the season, scoring 20 points while showcasing a mid-ranger jumper that seemed impossible to guard. She had 10 rebounds to help offset Baylor’s frontcourt size advantage.
On Tuesday, two Texas signees — point guard Chasity Patterson of Houston and Rellah Boothe of Bradenton, Fla. — were named two of the 10 semifinalists for the Naismith Girls Player of the Year award. Both will play in the annual McDonald’s All-America game March 29 in Chicago.
Credit for UT’s rise in women’s basketball goes to Aston for her recruiting acumen. Her current team is already filled with McDonald’s All-Americans — Ariel Atkins, Brooke McCarty, Lashann Higgs, Jordan Hosey, Jatarie White, Alecia Sutton and Holmes.
Aston opened her career at Texas with a 12-18 record in 2012-13. The Longhorns have followed that by going 22-12, 24-11 and 31-5 the next three years. Texas (19-4, 13-0 Big 12) has five conference games left.
On Monday, the Longhorns outlasted Baylor by not shrinking in crunch time. After Baylor erased a 16-point deficit to tie it 76-76 on an Alexis Jones jumper, Holmes responded, hitting a short banker with 59 seconds to play. She then sank two free throws on UT’s next possession for an 80-76 lead with 7,054 fans screaming in her ears.
Baylor would get no closer.
Texas snapped Baylor’s 54-game home winning streak. The Longhorns owned a 38-37 rebounding advantage, the first time Baylor has lost the battle of the boards this season.
“(Texas) came out on fire,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “Compliment those guys because they came ready to play. … They just punched us right in the mouth.”
The rematch will be Feb. 20 in Austin.
Social media heated up after the Texas triumph. “Congrats to @CoachKarenA and @TexasWBB on your great win tonight. Keep it rolling!” Mack Brown tweeted. “Shoutout to Baylor Women’s Basketball for their 7 year run. Apologies for what’s to come,” tweeted Imani Boyette. “Wow. This is a huge win for @TexasWBB,” tweeted ESPN sideline reporter Holly Rowe.
The win snapped a 14-game losing streak to Baylor, gave Texas sole possession of first place in the Big 12, and ended Baylor’s 54-game home winning streak and the Bears’ 29-game conference winning streak.
McCarty, though, did not seem overwhelmed by the victory.
“Coach talks about being in the moment because every game is important,” said McCarty, who became the 42nd player in UT history to record 1,000 career points. “This was a tough game, but hopefully we can keep building from this.”
With the victory, the Longhorns won their 17th straight game, the second-longest active streak in the country.
Just 80 more to catch UConn.