During a pregame press conference, senior Joanne Allen-Taylor made the game plan for the No. 2-seed Texas Longhorns to survive the No. 7-seed Utah Utes abundantly clear. “We just have to be really tough on the ball. Extremely aggressive on ball,” the guard affirmed when asked how to overcome the dynamic Utes whose prolific offense has been lauded as the best in the nation.
Few could have imagined just how aggressive the Longhorns would be on Sunday afternoon as they silenced the Utah Utes offense led by PAC 12 Freshman of the Year, Gianna Kneepens, in a 78-56 rout. The thrilling victory marks the final collegiate athletic event to be played in the 45-year history of the Frank Erwin Center as the venue formally closed following tonight’s final whistle.
Texas freshmen guard Rori Harmon stole the show with commanding performances on both ends of the court, setting a new program record and solidifying herself as the ultimate decision-maker in college hoops while delivering eight assists to her teammates throughout the game. Harmon also posted 11 total points while collecting seven total rebounds on the night.
Allen-Taylor propelled the Longhorns to an early 19-17 lead in the first quarter as she went 4-for-5 from the floor in the beginning minutes of the contest. The senior gathered 12 total points and four rebounds altogether as the second-most productive starter behind Harmon.
With her 6️⃣ dimes in the first quarter, Rori Harmon has broken the Texas single-season assist record for a freshman!— Texas Women's Basketball (@TexasWBB) March 20, 2022
Now with 169 assists on the season, Harmon passes Terri Mackey who recorded 166 assists during the 1980-81 season. #HookEm | @roriiiharmonnn pic.twitter.com/x4w6tj1JfR
The Texas bench proved to be the difference in the contest, outscoring Utah 44-10. Freshman forward Aaliyah Moore’s palpable swagger solidified Texas’s early momentum the moment she entered the game. The freshman forward stockpiled a career-high 21 points for the Longhorns as she relentlessly overpowered the Utes defense. Moore went 9-of-10 from the floor and sunk 75 percent of her free throws.
Junior guard Aliyah Matharu stoked the flames from the bench as well, mauling Utah defenders with her 85.7 percent field goal shooting and perfect total from beyond the arc. Matharu proved to be the all-around player of the game with five rebounds, two assists, three steals, and 14 total points etched in her line of the scorebook.
As a team, the Longhorns shot 63.6 percent from the floor in comparison to Utah’s 51.1 percent. Prior to their matchup with Texas, the Utes were among the best in the nation at three-point shooting, boasting an average of 9.6 treys per game. Head coach Vic Schaefer’s defense nullified the Utah beyond the arc and held the sharp shooters to only four three-pointers. The 56 total points produced by Utah will stand as the second-lowest final score of their season.
The Longhorns stomped the gas pedal at tipoff and never relinquished pressure. The team tallied 26 rebounds, 16 assists, nine steals, and three blocks in their dynamic showing. Achieving one of Schaefer’s pregame goals, Texas improved their turnover total from the first round of the tournament. The Horns gave up the ball 12 times in comparison to Utah’s 19 turnovers. Texas also posted the lower foul total of the two teams with nine fouls to Utah’s 13.
The Longhorns have four days to shine their dancing shoes before suiting up for a Sweet 16 appearance slated for Friday, March 25. Texas will tango with the winner of No. 3 LSU and No. 6 Ohio State. Details surrounding the Sweet 16 matchup are expected to be released after LSU and Ohio State face off in a primetime contest Monday.