Texas on 19-game tear and stampeding toward Big 12 title
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) No. 8 Texas has shaken off early-season struggles to look like the team everyone thought they would be.
With a 19-game winning streak - the second-longest in the country behind Connecticut's 100 - and sitting in first place in the Big 12, Texas heads into a critical weekend: The team is on the road Saturday at No. 19 Oklahoma and at home Monday night against No. 4 Baylor. Sweep those games and the Longhorns would clinch at least a share of the program's first Big 12 championship since winning consecutive titles in 2003 and 2004.
Texas coach Karen Aston says she's trying to keep her players focused on the moment, not the future, even just a few days' worth. Texas (21-4, 14-0 Big 12) hasn't won at Oklahoma (20-6, 11-3) since 2010.
''Oklahoma doesn't care what we've just done,'' Aston said. ''That's the only game that matters.''
Now in her fifth season, Aston is lacking Big 12 titles but has pushed the program back among the nation's elite. Her teams have won at least 20 games four consecutive seasons and steadily advanced further in the NCAA Tournament each year.
In 2015, Texas lost to Connecticut in the Sweet 16. The Longhorns made the regional final last season, only to get bounced by UConn again.
After winning 31 games last season, Texas opened this season ranked in the top 10 but an inexperienced lineup took some lumps early as the Longhorns were slow out of the gate. In a front-loaded schedule, Texas lost four of its first six games to No. 1 UConn, No. 3 Mississippi State, No. 6 South Carolina and No. 10 Stanford. Three of those came on the road.
''I don't really like losing, but the schedule ended up making us tougher, it exposed our weaknesses pretty quick,'' Aston said. ''It was a matter of getting experience, learning how to practice, learning how to play. We just weren't prepared. I knew that the minute we started practice in October.''
Aston didn't push the panic button and neither did her players, who eventually settled in and starting winning. And the Longhorns are only getting sharper as the postseason nears.
Texas earned a huge road win at No. 4 Baylor. The Longhorns dominated for three quarters then held off a furious late rally. A week later, they beat No. 7 Florida State in overtime in Tallahassee. Junior point guard Brooke McCarty scored 29 points and played all 50 minutes against the Seminoles.
A win in Norman would set up a huge home-court clash with Baylor on Monday night. Lose either, or both, and the conference race is thrown wide open.
''It's been fun,'' senior guard Brianna Taylor said. ''We haven't been in this position in quite a few years.''