COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP)—Longhorns coach Gail Goestenkors knew that losing 11 straight games to rival Texas A&M had weighed heavily on her team.
“It was actually a gorilla,” she said laughing after Texas beat the Aggies 76-71 on Wednesday night.
Chassidy Fussell scored 22 points to help the Longhorns end their skid. The Longhorns (11-4, 1-2 Big 12) were up 72-71 with 2:03 left when Cokie Reed missed a short jumper. She got the rebound and converted a layup to make it a three-point game.
“That was huge,” Goestenkors said. “We talk about offensive rebounds in close games determining the outcome. The determination she had to put that shot in was big.”
After Adrienne Pratcher missed a jumper on the other end, Texas secured the victory—its first in the Big 12 this season.
“This was one of our goals, to finally beat A&M,” said Texas senior Ashley Gayle, who scored a career-high 17 points on her 22nd birthday. “Everyone was in attack mode.”
Texas A&M (10-4, 1-2), the defending national champions, lost at home to an unranked opponent for the first time since a setback to Nebraska in February 2005.
“(The Longhorns) were hungry and they used those last 11 games as motivation,” said Texas A&M guard Sydney Carter, who scored a game-high 25 points. “They played to win. This is a learning process for us. We’ll get on the practice court and do what we can to fix those problems.”
Texas A&M coach Gary Blair shook his head at his team being outhustled.
“We’re getting everybody’s best, and we knew that going in,” Blair said. “We’re a proud national champion, but that was last year. These rings don’t mean much when I’ve got (opposing coaches) saying, `Hey, that’s last year. Bring it on, what do you have?’ We have to practice better, not longer.”
UT outscored A&M 40-24 in the paint, and 20-9 on the fast break.
“I’m proud of our team for the way it stood together,” Goestenkors said. “We just found a way. We’ve got great seniors, and they were determined we weren’t going to leave here without a win.”
The Aggies are set to join the Southeastern Conference next season, and Texas has said it’s not interested in playing A&M in any sport for the foreseeable future as nonconference opponents. The teams are scheduled to meet for a last time in Austin on March 4.
“The fact that they’re defending national champions and with this being the last matchup at A&M - it made everyone more focused,” Gayle said.