UT WOMEN ROLL TO EASY VIC­TORY IN NCAA OPENER

Texas dis­patches Cen­tral Arkansas de­spite some rusty play, will face N.C. State in Sun­day’s sec­ond round of Lex­ing­ton Re­gional.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Rick Cantu

A game filled with turnovers, missed de­fen­sive as­sign­ments and lack of of­fen­sive rhythm rings hol­low when one con­sid­ers the bot­tom line: Texas 78, Cen­tral Arkansas 50. As ex­pected, the third-seeded Longhorns cruised to an easy vic­tory in the first round of the NCAA Women’s Bas­ket­ball Tour­na­ment on Friday. They flexed their mus­cles with a 55-23 re­bound­ing edge and a 30-14 edge in bench points, and they were never chal­lenged af­ter lead­ing 24-4 af­ter the first quar­ter.

Texas, which im­proved to 24-8, will face North Carolina State in the sec­ond round of the Lex­ing­ton Re­gional on Sun­day at the Er­win Cen­ter. The Wolf­pack (23-8), who are a No. 6 seed, dis­patched Auburn ear­lier Friday. Sun­day’s game will start at ei­ther 11 a.m. or 1:30 p.m.

Texas played like a team com­ing off a

12-day lay­off. Longhorns coach Karen As­ton, sub­sti­tut­ing freely, saw all 11 of her play­ers score at least four points. Texas had a hot hand, hit­ting 51.7 per­cent of its shots to im­prove its record to 24-8.

“It’s that time of year where you just sur­vive, ad­vance, move on and get ready for the next one,” As­ton said.

Brooke McCarty, the Big 12’s player of the year, led Texas with 15 points, in­clud­ing 3 of 4 shots from be­hind the 3-point line. Fresh­man Joyner Holmes, who looked slug­gish in the Big 12 Tour­na­ment two weeks ago, had a game-high nine re­bounds to com­ple­ment her 12 points.

It was hardly a per­fect game for Texas, which coughed up 21 turnovers that led to 18 points for the Su­gar Bears (265). And af­ter tak­ing a 48-20 lead at half­time, the Longhorns were outscored 23-14 in a ragged third quar­ter.

That was a hot topic af­ter the game.

“We started do­ing things that were un­char­ac­ter­is­tic for us, and (the Su­gar Bears) took ad­van­tage of our turnovers,” McCarty said.

Did Texas play at a cham­pi­onship level?

“Not for 40 min­utes,” said guard Ariel Atkins, who was lim­ited to six points and five re­bounds af­ter be­ing sad­dled with four fouls.

As­ton emp­tied her bench early and of­ten and re­ceived healthy con­tri­bu­tions from play­ers such as Jada Un­der­wood (six points, five re­bounds), Lashann Higgs (six points), Olamide Ab­o­rawa (six points, five re­bounds) and Au­drey-Ann Caron-Goudreau (four points, three boards).

Texas used a big size ad­van­tage to seize con­trol early. While the Su­gar Bears re­lied on 6-foot-1 posts Raquel Lo­gan and Kierra Jor­dan, Texas coun­tered with 6-5 Kelsey Lang, the 6-4 Caron-Goudreau and the 6-3 Holmes.

That trio helped the Longhorns shoot 61.3 per­cent from the field in the first half, UT’s best half of the sea­son.

“We knew we had a size ad­van­tage, and we just stuck with our game plan,” McCarty said. UT had a 13-4 edge in as­sists, most of them set­ting up Lang and Holmes in­side.

The Su­gar Bears at times gave the Longhorns trou­ble, outscor­ing Texas 23-14 in the third quar­ter. But across the hall, Cen­tral Arkansas play­ers and coach San­dra Rush­ing were in no mood to speak about a moral vic­tory.

Guard Mag­gie Prof­fitt, who scored a team-high 17 points, said her team’s lack of height was crit­i­cal.

“We were send­ing five play­ers to the boards, and (the Longhorns) were still able to jump over the top and get the re­bound,” Prof­fitt said.

Cen­tral Arkansas also was hurt by the ab­sence of se­nior point guard Bri­anna Mullins, who played just 23 min­utes af­ter be­ing whis­tled for three fouls in the first quar­ter. She fin­ished with five points and one as­sist.

Look­ing ahead, the Longhorns will play an un­fa­mil­iar op­po­nent Sun­day. They hold a 5-1 se­ries edge but have not played the Wolf­pack since win­ning a 69-56 de­ci­sion in 2003.

“Our play­ers know they have to put to­gether 40 good min­utes to beat N.C. State,” As­ton said. “They un­der­stand they need to play bet­ter than we did to­day.”

PHO­TOS BY ERIC GAY / ASSOCIATED PRESS

LEFT: Texas fresh­man guard Joyner Holmes, who looked slug­gish in the Big 12 Tour­na­ment two weeks ago, had a game-high nine re­bounds Friday to com­ple­ment her 12 points. RIGHT: Texas head coach Karen As­ton, sub­sti­tut­ing freely, saw all 11 of her play­ers score at least four points.

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