UT WOMEN UP­SET IN BIG 12 TOUR­NA­MENT SEMI­FI­NALS

As­ton ques­tions Horns’ ef­fort as they head to NCAAs with an­other loss.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Rick Cantu rcantu@states­man.com

Karen As­ton hopes the team that reeled off 19 straight vic­to­ries in De­cem­ber, Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary finds it­self be­fore the NCAA Tour­na­ment be­gins March 17.

As­ton, whose team has gone 2-4 since the streak ended, said the Longhorns were “out-com­peted” dur­ing a 62-59 loss to West Vir­ginia in a Big 12 Con­fer­ence Tour­na­ment semi­fi­nal Sun­day at Ch­e­sa­peake En­ergy Arena.

An an­tic­i­pated re­match with Bay­lor van­ished when Brooke McCarty’s 3-pointer in the wan­ing sec­onds bounced off the rim.

In­stead, West Vir­ginia, the No. 6 seed in the tour­na­ment, ad­vances to play Bay­lor in the Big 12 cham­pi­onship at 8 p.m. Mon­day.

“It’s dis­ap­point­ing be­cause you never want to be in a sit­u­a­tion where you say you were out-com­peted,” As­ton said. “When it came down to loose balls, get­ting stops, be­ing men­tally tough, you just need to fin­ish.”

Texas (23-8) is ex­pected to be a No. 2 or No. 3 seed when the NCAA se­lec­tion com­mit­tee an­nounces its 64-team field March 13.

If some thought West Vir­ginia (22-10) was an NCAA “bub­ble” team be­fore the Big 12 Tour­na­ment, the Moun­taineers scrapped that the­ory. With con­sec­u­tive vic­to­ries over No. 19 Ok­la­homa and No. 12 Texas, WVU should be sit­ting pretty next week, As­ton and West Vir­ginia coach Mike Carey said.

The Moun­taineers were led by fiery for­ward Tyn­ice Martin, who scored a

game-high 29 points. Martin ap­peared to seal the game with a pair of free throws to give her team a 60-56 lead with 14.8 sec­onds to play.

Texas, though, cut the mar­gin to 60-59 when McCarty drilled a 3-pointer from the right with 9.5 sec­onds left.

West Vir­ginia guard Cha­nia Ray ex­tended the lead to 62-59 with 6.5 sec­onds to play. That gave Texas one last shot to tie the game and send it into over­time.

Guard Ariel Atkins fired an in­bounds pass to McCarty, who had a clear look at the rim. But the Big 12 player of the year came up short, and WVU re­bounded the ball to ice the game. McCarty fin­ished with a team-high 13 points.

“When we came down here, our goal was to win the cham­pi­onship,” Martin said. “I feel like the en­ergy we brought to the tour­na­ment led us to­day.”

WVU’s sud­den surge has Carey won­der­ing why his team was only 8-10 in Big 12 games this sea­son.

“If I knew the an­swer to that, I might not be here,” he said.

Texas was a low-en­ergy team in the sec­ond quar­ter. Af­ter tak­ing a 21-14 lead af­ter one quar­ter, the Longhorns were 1 for 10 in the sec­ond quar­ter and scored just five points.

WVU, en­er­gized by UT’s weak quar­ter, took a 31-26 lead at the break.

Atkins, for one, was not pleased with her team’s over­all ef­fort, es­pe­cially in that piv­otal sec­ond quar­ter.

Atkins said she felt “ter­ri­ble and dis­ap­pointed” that the Longhorns wasted an op­por­tu­nity to win a con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship.

“It was my job as one of the lead­ers on this team to make sure we show up ev­ery day, so I’ll take that,” said Atkins, who had 12 points.

So what’s next for Texas?

“Be­fore the tour­na­ment started, I thought our body of work was good enough that we put our­selves in a po­si­tion to host” first- and sec­ond-round NCAA games, As­ton said, “and I still feel that way.”

Texas won the re­bound­ing bat­tle 41-35.

UT’s bench had a 13-0 edge over WVU’s bench.

SUE OGROCKI / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

UT’s Kelsey Lang loses the ball when a West Vir­ginia player fouls her Sun­day in a Big 12 semi­fi­nal. The Longhorns fell to 2-4 since their 19-game win­ning streak, and coach Karen As­ton says they were “out-com­peted.”

PHO­TOS BY SUE OGROCKI / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Texas’ Joyner Holmes is called for an of­fen­sive foul as she drives on West Vir­ginia’s Cha­nia Ray dur­ing their Big 12 semi­fi­nal.

West Vir­ginia’s Tyn­ice Martin, who scored 29 points, shouts af­ter the Moun­taineers de­feated Texas for their sec­ond vic­tory over a ranked op­po­nent in two days. The Moun­taineers will play Bay­lor in the fi­nal Mon­day night.

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