KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Texas Longhorns bruised their way to a 72-65 victory over the Kansas State Wildcats to win the final Big 12 Women’s Tournament quarterfinal on Friday.
The Longhorns (24-6) will face Iowa State at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the semifinals. Iowa State defeated West Virginia, 66-60, on Friday. The Longhorns won both meetings with Iowa State convincingly — 66-48 in Ames, Iowa on Jan. 19 and 73-48 in Austin on Feb. 16.
Texas is trying to win its first Big 12 Tournament title since 2003.
It wasn’t easy. Texas had beaten Kansas State (19-12) twice already this season, and the Wildcats were intent on trying to get some revenge in front of a crowd that was clearly rooting for them. In addition to Kansas State fans, Iowa State fans stuck around to cheer for K-State — or perhaps more importantly, cheering against the Longhorns.
While this was the closest of the three meetings, it was Texas guard Aliyah Matharu that lifted Texas when it mattered the most.
With Kansa State having closed the gap to four points late in the third quarter, it was Matharu’s back-to-back 3-pointers that pushed Texas’ lead back to a 10-point lead. The Longhorns were up by 12 after the third quarter, and they hung on from there.
Kansas State didn’t quit, and at several points they had the lead down to single digits. K-State was able to scare Texas somewhat down the stretch, cutting the lead to five points with 20 seconds left.
The game was a contrast. Kansas State used a 2-3 zone to try and slow Texas down and cut off the penetration by their guards. Meanwhile, Texas stuck with its pressure man-to-man defense, though the Longhorns didn’t extend it out of the halfcourt. They also fronted K-State center Ayoka Lee, primarily with Texas forward Lauren Ebo, and used double teams to try and slow down the 6-foot-6 center.
Texas did a good job of that in two previous meetings, limiting Lee to 30 points and 16 rebounds in those two games. Lee finished with 16 points and seven rebounds on Friday, as she once again struggled for consistent touches and offense. Serena Sundell scored 11 points Emilee Ebert added 15 points. Kansas State is likely to get an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.
Matharu finished with 15 points, all on 3-pointers. Ebo had 17 points and 10 rebounds, while guard Joanne Allen-Taylor added 12 points for Texas. Rori Harmon also scored 16 points.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.