Texas coach Karen Aston said her team is ready for the challenge of facing UConn after taking down third-seeded UCLA 72-64 in comeback fashion - after trailing the Bruins 54-48 after three quarters.
Texas dominated the fourth quarter, outscoring UCLA 24-10. After opening on a 10-0 spurt, the Horns led by four, 58-54, with 6:37 remaining in regulation. A Bruin jumper cut the game to one possession, but a Lashann Higgs layup and three-point conversion from Ariel Atkins pushed the margin to five with 3:30 on the clock. Texas hit 6-of-10 free throws in the final 57 seconds, and that proved to be enough as the Longhorns won, 72-64.
"I really am looking forward to (Monday)," Aston said of meeting UConn in the Elite Eight. "Extremely,extremely proud of our team and our program right now and where we're at. I think that when we started the year this year, one of the goals that we set forth was to get to this point.
"We fell short last year. I think it was a big step for us to get to the Sweet 16 last year, but our team fell short. And it was something that we repeatedly talked about.
"Once we set the goal, we really never looked back on that being a true goal of our team, which was to take one more step and get to the Elite Eight. And we have done that."
Texas point guard Celina Rodrigo was asked how this year's team is different from the one that lost to UConn by 51 in the Sweet 16 last year?
"I think for us, it's just knowing that we deserve to be here and that all of our hard work has put us in this position," Rodrigo said. "And I think just being confident in ourselves and each other on the court.
"It really helps us out there when we're playing for each other, and we're confident that each other will make shots and if not, that we're there to get the rebound, small stuff like that. It really helps our team. So I think just being confident in each other."
Texas senior C Imani Boyette said the Longhorns got blown out by UConn last year because the Longhorns "gave up."
"Last year, I think they put the hammer on us because we gave up," Boyette said. "We gave in when we kind of hit resistance. So I think we just figured out how to go through that wall.
"When the other team goes on a run, you know how to respond, and you know how to stay within each other and not get down on yourselves.
"So we learned that we have to stay together when times get hard on the court and make sure we're locked into each other and helping each other, regardless of what's happening."
The UConn women found themselves defending their dominant role in their sport after Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaugnessy used the Huskies' 60-point win over Mississippi State in the Sweet 16 to say the team's massive blowouts are bad for the sport.
"You definitely can't win this argument," said UConn leading scorer Breanna Stewart, who is attempting to become the first ever fourt-time MVP of the Final Four.
"I think that for women's basketball, we're trying to continue to grow the game, and you can tell that we are with how the tournament has played out so far, with the upsets and that kind of stuff. But it needs to continue. Teams need to get better, players need to get better and that starts from before we even get to college.
"People say that women's basketball is boring to watch, but when we're playing at such a high level and because we're beating everyone else, then they don't want to watch it either. So I don't know what they want us to do about it."
As far as UConn's game plan for the Longhorns, the Huskies' Moriah Jefferson said UConn will need to get physical with Texas' 6-foot-7 post Boyette - something Texas needs to think about - getting physical - with the Huskies, who are 30-point favorites over UT.
"First off, on defense you're going to have to be aggressive with them," Jefferson said. "They have huge posts in Imani, and we have to really make sure to limit her touches.
"And on the offensive end, try to get the ball to the middle of the zone. They will extend and pressure out, so let's get the ball inside and try to work inside, outside and then go from there."null