Still, there’s no measuring stick quite like the Tennessee Lady Vols, the defending national champions and winners of eight titles overall.
The No. 6 Longhorns measured up in every way Sunday, thumping No. 7 Tennessee 73-59 behind 21 points from Brittainey Raven and a dominant effort on defense and rebounding.
“We knew we could win,” said Kat Nash, who scored 12 points and hit a big 3-pointer during a 10-1 run by the Longhorns in the second half. “We knew if we played our hardest, we would win.”
Texas is 9-0 for the first time since 1987-88.
“We are growing,” Goestenkors said. “We are going to be a national power and a team to always be reckoned with.”
Tennessee (7-2) lost five key players, including national player of the year Candace Parker, from last season’s national title team that pounded Texas 92-67. The loss left Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt 10 wins shy of career No. 1,000.
“Night and day,” Summitt said in comparing this Texas team to last season.
A quick look at the stat sheet showed just how far the Longhorns have come.
Texas held Tennessee to 33 percent shooting, forced 18 turnovers and dominated the rebounding 52-41, including 19 offensive boards that led to 17 second-chance points.
“We missed so many, easy, easy shots in the paint,” Summitt said. “You’ve got to give Texas an awful lot of credit. They were tough.”
The young Lady Vols hurt themselves with fouls and were 11-of-24 on free throws. Freshman Glory Johnson, Tennessee’s leading scorer this season, played less than three minutes of the first half because of foul trouble and was 7-of-14 from the line with several key misses in the second.
Johnson picked up two fouls in the first two minutes and went to the bench for the next 13. She was back in the game only 44 seconds before she picked up her third and went right back to her seat.
“I just had to play smarter,” Johnson said. “I just wasn’t as physical, wasn’t as aggressive.”
Texas started fast, hitting four of its first five shots, then went cold, going 5-of-26 for the rest of the half. The Lady Vols, even with Johnson spending most of the half on the bench and Angie Bjorkland picking up three fouls in the half, rallied from eight points down to make it 31-31 at halftime.
Johnson gave Tennessee its only lead the first time she touched the ball after halftime and had eight of the Lady Vols’ first 10 points of the half. The game was tied 41-all when Texas cobbled together the big run that changed the game.
Raven started it with a baseline layup off a nifty no-look pass from Carla Cortijo before Raven and Nash hit consecutive 3-pointers to put Texas up 51-42.
“That’s what we’re known for, driving in and kicking it out to our shooters,” Raven said. “Once we got that going in the second half, we hit those 3s.”
Another 3-pointer by Nash made it 57-46. Tennessee got back within six points before Johnson and Vicki Baugh missed four straight free throws that could have pulled the Lady Vols back into the game.
After the misses, Texas steadily built its lead to put away the game. Raven made a pair of free throws and Cortijo drove for a layup to push the lead back to 11.
Cortijo, who played only six minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, finished with 11 points and five assists. Ashley Lindsey had 11 points, eight rebounds and six blocks.
“This was a big win for us,” Raven said. “We’ve been waiting for a big game like this.”