NO. 6 TEXAS VS. NO. 9 MISSISSIPPI STATE
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Erwin Center
Records: Texas 5-0; Mississippi St. 5-0
Savoring a road victory over No. 4 Tennessee on Sunday, the Longhorns will soon find out soon whether they can handle success.
Three days after the Texas women’s basketball knocked off the Lady Vols in Knoxville, another top-10 test awaits, this one inside the Erwin Center. On Wednesday night, the sixth-ranked Longhorns will face No. 9 Mississippi State.
“Beating Tennessee was great, but we can’t dwell on that now,” said Longhorns senior point guard Celina Rodrigo on Tuesday.
Mississippi State (5-0) has piled up impressive stats while cruising through an easy schedule. The Bulldogs rank No. 1 nationally in scoring defense (37.2 PPG), No. 2 in scoring offense (93.6), No. 1 in scoring margin (56.4), No. 2 in rebounding margin (21.8 RPG) and No. 1 in turnover margin (plus-18.4).
So Texas needs to quickly put Tennessee is in the rear-view mirror.
“One of the things we’ve talked about is being more on an even keel,” said Longhorns coach Karen Aston. “Yes, it was a big win (at Tennessee), a good win, but Wednesday’s game will be just as tough, if not tougher. You’re talking about an opponent that’s leading in lots of national categories. They come in here with some really gaudy stats. If we don’t stay on an even keel, we’ll be disappointed after this game.”
Texas (5-0) was in a similar situation last season. The Longhorns finished their non-conference season 11-0, which included victories over No. 6 Stanford, No. 4 Tennessee and No. 5 Texas A&M.
Texas, though, stumbled when it mattered most, going 9-9 in Big 12 games.
So why should this season be any different?
“We now know how to handle everything,” McCarty said. “Last year’s fast start took us for a loop. After we won those (non-conference) games last year, we thought,’Oh, we are good.’ This year, it’s an expectation.”
Aston has relied on the deepest pool of guards she’s had during her tenue at Texas. Starters McCarty and Rodrigo offer steady leadership, combining for 20.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game. Brianna Taylor (19 points against Rice) and freshman Lashann Higgs (18 points against Tennessee) have been reliable offensive options.
Rodrigo has gained Aston’s confidence as a floor leader. She played 29 minutes in the Tennessee victory and was on the court when the Longhorns closed the deal.
“I have confidence in a four-year starter,” the coach said. “Celina has been through some really tough times here. We threw her to the wolves as a freshman. She has an opportunity to feel really good about herself from the perspective that she’s put a lot of work in.”
NOTES: Texas needs 16 victories to become the fifth team in NCAA history to reach 1,000 all-time. …. Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer, the reigning SEC coach of the year, has compiled a 66-38 record at the school. She’s accumulated 60 wins and 30 conference victories faster than any previous Bulldogs coach.
Probable starting lineups
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