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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Texas started this up-and-down Big 12 women's basketball season in January with an upset loss at Missouri in which the Tigers rallied late.
So there was no way the Longhorns were going to be anything less than vigilant against Missouri on Tuesday in the first round of the Big 12 tournament. Plus, after a loss at Oklahoma State on Saturday left Texas 7-9 to finish the league's regular season, there was absolutely no margin for error to open the tournament.
A loss to the Tigers would have squashed Texas' chance to snare an at-large NCAA tournament bid. Texas hopes its 79-66 victory over Missouri at Municipal Auditorium is enough for NCAA inclusion, as the Longhorns are now 19-12 and have a strong RPI and strength of schedule.
"We're trying to make the NCAA tournament right now," said senior Kathleen Nash, who had 16 points to lead five Longhorns in double figures. "So that's a lot of motivation for us. We have a lot of urgency because of that."
Texas' Chassidy Fussell had 13 points, while Ashley Gayle and Ashleigh Fontenette each scored 11. Yvonne Anderson had 12 points and seven assists on her 21st birthday as her father, Mike, watched her and the Longhorns beat Missouri for the third season in a row at the Big 12 tournament.
Mike Anderson is coach of the Missouri men's team, which faces Texas Tech at the Sprint Center in Kansas City at 8:30 p.m. CT Wednesday. By then, the Texas women will be finished with their quarterfinal against No. 2 seed Texas A&M.
Are the Longhorns safely in the NCAA field, or do they still need one more win? That remains to be seen. Probably, though, they are in. The last time Texas coach Gail Goestenkors didn't take a team to the NCAA tournament was 1994, her second season at Duke.
This Texas squad was diminished when post player Cokie Reed had to miss the season with injury. The Longhorns defeated one rival, Texas Tech, twice, but lost twice to Baylor, Texas A&M and Oklahoma.
"The one thing that's remained constant is that I love this team," Goestenkors said. "Yes, it's been frustrating at times, but it hasn't changed the way I've felt about them. We practice so well and play so hard every day that I've been proud of them.
"I'm proud of the way they responded today, when their backs were against the wall. It's been tough because I want so much for them. And when you see how we can play, it gets your hopes up, and you want more."
What Texas really wants is an end to its losing streak to Texas A&M. The Aggies, who are the tournament's defending champion, have won 11 of the last 12 in the series with Texas. Goestenkors is 0-9 against the Aggies at Texas.
The Longhorns fell 80-65 at Texas A&M on Jan. 19, but just 68-65 on Feb. 27 in Austin.
"I thought in the first half they dictated tempo and got us back on our heels," Goestenkors said of the most recent meeting with the Aggies. "In the second half, it was all about passion and pride. That's all I talked about at halftime. We had that attack mindset, and we made a nice comeback. We have to have 40 minutes where we are in attack mode."