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An NCAA Tournament newcomer, Bradley looks for more 3-point shooting success against Texas

Texas guard Joanne Allen-Taylor defends Baylor's DiDi Richards during their game in Austin on March 1. This season, Texas is allowing 4.4 made 3-pointers per game.

Texas will make its 33rd appearance in the NCAA Women's Tournament on Monday night.

When it comes to that number, Texas doesn't have many peers. Tennessee is a 39-time tournament participant. Georgia and Stanford have each experienced the madness of March once more than the Longhorns.

So, Texas is a bracket old-timer. Its first-round opponent, however, is very much the opposite. Bradley is making its NCAA Tournament debut when it meets the Longhorns at Texas State's University Events Center at 7 p.m.

"I do think we definitely belong here. We deserve to be here and everything," Bradley guard Gabi Haack said. "Texas is a really good team, but I'm not going to look at them like they're so much better than us. We're just going to focus on our Bradley basketball."

The story of how Bradley (17-11) reached the NCAAs is wild. Seeded fifth at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, Bradley had a positive COVID-19 test within its program. That prompted Missouri State, which was nationally-ranked and a shoo-in for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament, to opt out. So instead of facing Missouri State (21-2) in the semifinals, Bradley instead beat an 11-13 Loyola Chicago team.

In the championship game, Bradley recorded a 78-70 win over Drake. Due to a positive test of its own and contact tracing, Drake was playing without its head coach, two assistants and two of its top three scorers.

Circumstances aside, Bradley also did its part to claim the Missouri Valley's crown. Bradley coach Andrea Gorski said, "we shot the ball the best we had all year at the conference tournament." Her team knocked down 12 3-pointers in both the semifinal and championship game. 

"I think the momentum from the tournament will hopefully carry over," Haack said. "It kind of carried over at practice (on Thursday). I think it will carry over into our game on Monday."

Bradley's 214 made 3-pointers rank 19th nationally. In her career, Haack has made the second-most 3-pointers in Missouri Valley history. Junior guard Lasha Petree has 50 this winter, a total that tops Texas' best sharpshooter by 16.

Petree, at 6 feet, also ranks 17th nationally in blocked shots. Haack, who stands 5-10, is averaging a team-high 6.8 rebounds per game.

"I love that Lasha and Gabi are very unusual-type players and they happen to be on the same team," Gorski said. "That makes it fun to coach."

Of the 20 Division I teams that have hit the most 3-pointers this season, two have already appeared on the Longhorns' schedule. Texas swept its three matchups against Iowa State. It also recorded a 101-80 win over Drake in December.

In those four games, Texas (18-9) allowed an average of 6.3 3-pointers. The Longhorns have yet to surrender more than eight in a contest. Bradley is sinking 7.6 3-pointers a game.

"We're going to have to be ready to guard outside the 3-point line aggressively," Texas junior Joanne Allen-Taylor said. "Hopefully we can expose their other weaknesses that we're trying to find."