A scorching start by the Texas Longhorns helped overcome some sloppy play at times early, as the ‘Horns raced out to a 28-4 to start the game and ultimately beat the Central Arkansas Sugar Bears 78-50 in Austin to open the 2017 NCAA tournament.
As a result of the win, head coach Karen Aston’s team will advance to the second round, where it will take on No. 6-seeded North Carolina State, which defeated Auburn by 14 points in the early game on Friday. The NCAA hasn’t yet announced the game time, but it will be on Sunday at the Erwin Center.
By the middle of the second quarter, Texas was shooting over 75 percent from the field, but had turned the ball over nine times. If a shot went up, however, it was good far more often than not.
When the horn sounded to mark the end of the first half as a last-second putback went through the net, Texas held a 48-20 lead.
There was even some flash, as guard Lashanna Higgs threw a no-look, wraparound pass to Joyner Holmes in transition at one point — the Lady Longhorns were having fun after having their collective dedication called into question by head coach Karen Aston.
Early on, the ‘Horns controlled the defensive glass and forced fouls and turnovers by the Sugar Bears, who struggled mightily from the field against the length of the Texas defense, which could prove to be a major asset against any smaller teams the ‘Horns may face later in the tournament.
Center Kelsey Lang was particularly effective, scoring on her first four attempts from the field in the first half and blocking two shots in addition to securing four rebounds.
Meanwhile, Brooke McCarty and Ariel Atkins were efficient from long distance, hitting three of their first five combined attempts.
If Aston was looking for her team to maintain intensity for the entire game, that didn’t exactly happen — Central Arkansas outscored Texas by nine in the third quarter before the Longhorns re-focused to spark a 13-4 run in the fourth.
McCarty finished the game with a team-high 15 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field and 4-of-4 shooting from the line. Rising freshman wing Joyner Holmes added 12 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and two blocks in a stat-stuffing effort, while Lang hit double digits with 10 points.
Texas concluded the contest having shot 51.7 percent from the field while out-rebounding Central Arkansas 55-23.