UT women

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third-seeded Texas at the Erwin Cen­ter in the NCAA Tour­na­ment’s first round Fri­day.

On Sun­day, the win­ner will meet the win­ner of Fri­day’s ear­lier game, AuburnNorth Carolina State, to see who heads to the Lex­ing­ton re­gional.

Hask­ins, who died in 2008, was a de­fen­sive rough­neck who won 719 games over a 38-year ca­reer, all in El Paso.

“We’d talk about de­fense and what we needed to do,” Rush­ing re­called. “When you’re 25, you have no bas­ket­ball phi­los­o­phy. You think you do, but you re­ally don’t. He was one of the best in-game coaches I had ever seen.”

Rush­ing, now in her 28th sea­son, has coached at three Divi­sion I schools: UTEP , Delta State and Cen­tral Ar­kan­sas. The Sug­ars Bears have been ex­cep­tional over the last two sea­sons, go­ing 54-7.

Four­teenth-seeded Cen­tral Ar­kan­sas (26-4) has taken a page from Hask­ins’ phi­los­o­phy, rank­ing No. 4 in the na­tion (out of 344 teams) in scor­ing de­fense, yield­ing 52.2 points a game. The Sugar Bears rank sev­enth in field goal per­cent­age de­fense (47.4).

They cap­tured the South­land Con­fer­ence tour­na­ment last week by crush­ing Stephen F. Austin 60-35, hold­ing the Lady­jacks to 27.3 per­cent shoot­ing from the field. Mag­gie Prof­fitt, a first-team All-South­land guard, scored 21 points, hit­ting nine of her 12 shots.

Cen­tral Ar­kan­sas is lo­cated in Conway, a town of roughly 65,000 in the heart of Ar­kan­sas. Texas coach Karen As­ton, who be­gan her ca­reer at Vilo­nia (Ark.) High School in 1988, said that was just a “15-minute drive” to Conway.

“Cen­tral Ar­kan­sas is used to win­ning, and they’ve been win­ning a lot of games,” As­ton said Mon­day. “It won’t be a sur­prise to play us, and it won’t be in­tim­i­dat­ing to them.”

Texas (23-8) has not played since los­ing in the Big 12 semi­fi­nals to up­start West Vir­ginia on March 5. It was UT’s fourth loss in six games, prompt­ing one re­porter Mon­day to sug­gest the Longhorns were “los­ing oil” down the stretch.

“We got some new oil and got the car fixed,” As­ton said. “The car was put in the shop for a few days, and we worked pretty hard on it.”

Texas will have a size ad­van­tage over Cen­tral Ar­kan­sas, whose tallest play­ers are 6-1 cen­ters Raquel Lo­gan and Kierra Jor­dan. That could ben­e­fit the Longhorns, who rank sixth in the na­tion in re­bound­ing mar­gin (10.2) and 19th in blocked shots per game (5.6).

Texas joins Bay­lor, Ok­la­homa, West Vir­ginia, Kansas State and Iowa State as Big 12 rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the NCAA Tour­na­ment. As­ton had pre­dicted the con­fer­ence would get six teams in the field two weeks ago.

“I think I’m the only coach who did that,” she said. “It was a while back when I said our league was be­ing un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated . ... West Vir­ginia’s run re­ally helped our league. As much as we didn’t like the way it hap­pened, it made our league ap­pre­ci­ated a lit­tle bit more.”

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