Texas women’s basketball ready to reload, use heartbreak from Elite Eight loss as fuel


AUSTIN (KXAN) — For the third time in the past four seasons, the Texas Longhorns women’s basketball team ended its season in the Elite Eight.

The pain of a 76-66 loss to North Carolina State on Sunday will linger with the Longhorns for a while, and for those players who wore burnt orange for the last time, it’ll probably hang on even longer. With the heartache, however, comes a sense of accomplishment and pride because given how the season went, it could have taken a wrong turn quickly.

After junior point guard Rori Harmon tore her ACL during a shootaround before a nonconference game against Jackson State in late December — one game before the Big 12 Conference schedule began — it would have been easy for the team to fold up its tent and pack it up for the season. When a team loses a player like Harmon, who was having an All-American-type season, it can be devastating or galvanizing. Texas chose to make it the latter.

Junior forward Aaliyah Moore said she always had faith that the team could put together a season like this despite not having their leader on the floor.

“I always believed it. We had the pieces,” she said. “I’ve seen the work that I put in and what everybody else has put in. That’s why it burns so bad. We were so close. I believed that we could back in December, it was just going to take work. We just fell short.”

For Shaylee Gonzales, the past two seasons at Texas were exactly what she was looking for after dominating the West Coast Conference with BYU to become an All-American. Her time with the Longhorns is now over and she has no regrets.

“This has been the best two years of my life,” she said. “I’ve grown so much and I’m super grateful for that opportunity. It’s disappointing to lose like this, but we went so far. I’ve never been to this moment, the Elite Eight. This experience has been awesome.”

Gonzales and Khadija Faye were honored on the team’s senior night, so theoretically everybody else can return for another season. With ESPN.com’s No. 1 recruiting class on the way and Harmon recovering from her injury with all other potential returners, Texas is set up to have another outstanding team in 2024-25.

To make a Final Four, however, Texas has to take the same approach it did after Harmon’s injury. Being a newcomer in the Southeastern Conference will be hard enough, but using the disappointment of Sunday to fuel the offseason can make next season seem a little easier.

“I don’t think anyone thought we’d be a 1-seed, win the Big 12 tournament or even make it to the Elite Eight, so I’m extremely proud of that,” Moore said. “It’s hard for me because I wanted more. Really bad. I’m tired of just making it to the Elite Eight because I knew this team could do it, with the work we put in. We talked about it in the locker room and all we can do it learn from it and go to work this summer.”