Here is everything you need to know about the Texas Longhorns and the Utah Utes in our Texas vs. Utah NCAA Women’s Tournament preview.
Spokane Region – Second Round
No. 2 Texas (27-6) vs. No. 7 Utah (21-11), 4 p.m. CT, Sunday, ESPN, Frank Erwin Center, Austin, Texas
How They Got Here: Texas won the Big 12’s automatic bid. Utah received an at-large bid out of the Mountain West.
NCAA Tournament Results: Texas: def. Fairfield, 70-52 (first round); Utah: def. Arkansas, 92-69, (first round).
Winner Gets: A trip to the Sweet 16 in Spokane, Wash., next week.
Projected starting lineups
Texas: G Rori Harmon, G Shay Holle, G Joanne Allen-Taylor, F DeYona Gaston, F Lauren Ebo.
Utah: G Kennady McQueen, G Gianna Kneepkens, f Jenna Johnson, F Kelsey Rees, G Dru Gylten.
Players to watch
Texas F Aaliyah Moore: She was supposed to be the Big 12 Freshman of the Year, remember? That’s what the coaches thought in October when they chose her as the preseason pick. It didn’t work out that way, thanks in large part to an injury that sapped most of her non-conference season and part of her Big 12 season. But, in the last two games Moore has emerged as a key asset off the bench. In the Big 12 Championship game against Baylor, she had a season-high 12 points and played big minutes as DeYona Gaston got into foul trouble. Then, against Fairfield on Friday, she set a new season-high with 18 points and ended up with a double-double, grabbing 10 rebounds. If this is the Moore Texas gets the rest of the way, the Longhorns’ frontcourt may be impossible to deal with.
Utah G Kennady McQueen: Utah is young team, but the Utes aren’t playing like it. McQueen was at the center of Utah’s first-round win over Arkansas, as she led the way with 20 points. The Utes are built around the 3-point basket, and McQueen is their most efficient asset from the arc, even if she doesn’t quite average 10 points per game. She hit six of them against Arkansas. For the season she’s Utah’s best 3-point shooter by percentage, firing 43.5 percent from distance. Her season-best was 22 against USC and she’s hit 20 or more points three times this season. With the other weapons Utah has McQueen’s hot shooting can siphon off defensive pressure from her teammates.
Texas: The Longhorns were up big on Fairfield at halftime on Friday, but actually let the Stags back in the game a bit as they cut the Texas lead to 10 points in the third quarter. Texas did pull away by the end of the third quarter. Guard Rori Harmon had a double-double with 10 points and 11 assists, while Lauren Ebo also poured in 10 points. That win was the 13th straight for Texas, dating back to their back-to-back losses to Baylor in early February. Texas will host its final game in the Erwin Center, and they want to send everyone home happy. Hosting NCAA Tournament games is tradition at Texas, which is making NCAA Tournament appearance No. 34, fourth-best all time. Texas is coming off a trip to the Elite Eight last season, but has the Final Four in its sights, something Texas hasn’t done since 2003 under the legendary Jody Conradt.
Utah: The Utes are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011, and Friday’s win over Arkansas was their first NCAA Tournament win since 2009 when they beat Villanova, 60-30. In 18 trips to the NCAA Tournament, the Utes have been to the Sweet 16 just one time, back in 2001. The Utes love to score. They are the Pac-12’s highest scoring team, averaging 76 points going into the tournament. They’re a ‘three-and-free team.’ Going into Austin, the Utes had 291 made 3-pointers, 825 3-point attempts, 9.4 made 3’s per game and 452 made free throws. Those totals put Utah among the best in the country. The Utes have a terrific freshman class — Gianna Kneepkens, Jenna Johnson, and Inês Vieira. Kneepkens was the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and was on the Pac-12 All-Tournament team.
Texas and Utah have never met in women’s basketball.
Texas 68, Utah 62. Think Oklahoma when you think of Utah, and that should worry Texas a bit. The Longhorns split with the high-scoring Sooners. But Texas won that second meeting and their defense is on fire right now.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.