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REGION: West SEED: 1
COACH: Jody Conradt CONFERENCE: Big 12
Road to the Final Four ...................................................................................
Freshman Tiffany Jackson has given the Longhorns added muscle and hops inside to help senior Stacy Stephens. Jamie Carey is still the leader and a big-time clutch shooter regardless of her overall percentage. But fellow guard Nina Norman can be the difference-maker, especially with her pull-up jump shot. Defensive whiz Kala Bowers struggled in February, but she seems to be starting to come around again just at the right time. And have we mentioned Heather Schreiber's capacity for the killer 3-pointer? The Longhorns' offense is very good, but their defense is usually excellent. Texas' biggest issue is turnovers, and the 'Horns must be wary of that eventually biting them in a close game. So far, they've been winning all the close ones. And they have an excellent chance at making a repeat visit to the
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The 6-foot-1 Stephens came up just short of averaging a double-double in Big 12 action (14.5 points and a league-best 9.9 boards). Offensively she's clutch, hitting 60.7 percent of her shots against Big 12 foes. She's also a monster on the glass, again leading the league in defensive rebounds at 6.81 per game.
ANALYSIS BY ESPN'S STACEY DALES-SCHUMAN
The Texas Longhorns have hooked the entire nation by their horns.
With legitimate wins against the likes of Duke, Tennessee, Georgia and a group of foes in the Big 12 that pose no easy challenge, they have proven that they are a national contender.
Although Texas lost senior defensive stopper Annissa Hastings to a torn Achilles tendon earlier in the season, the Longhorns found a difference-making replacement in freshman Tiffany Jackson, ESPN.com's Freshman of the Year. Jackson has a raw athleticism that enables her to score in a variety of exciting ways around the hoop.
Kala Bowers and Nina Norman also have helped replaced Hastings' feisty defense. Bowers imposes a physical sturdiness that serves the Longhorns well, while Norman uses her quickness to induce fastbreak opportunities that lead to easy buckets.
Still, while we've mentioned some of the major contributors, we haven't even got to Texas' prime three threats yet, and that's what makes the 'Horns one of the deepest teams in women's hoops.
The big three -- senior force Stacy Stephens, junior swinger Heather Schreiber and team conductor Jamie Carey -- comprise a nucleus that has thrust Texas basketball onto the national scene.
You can count on Stephens to solidly control the paint, Schreiber to open the gates offensively and Carry to orchestrate each and every facet of the game.
Should Texas continue to enforce a highly physical defense, a determined rebounding approach, and ultimately carry it's season average of four players scoring in double figures into the tournament, this is a team to be reckon with.