While most of her teammates came up short, Imani Boyette stood tall for the sixth-ranked Texas women’s basketball team.
In an otherwise dreadful offensive performance by the Longhorns, the 6-7 Texas post scored 21 points and gathered 10 rebounds in a 53-47 victory over No. 9 Mississippi State Wednesday night at the Erwin Center.
The senior All-America candidate paid for her determination against the aggressive Bulldogs. She wore two ice packs on both knees and one wrapped around her stomach in the post-game news conference.
“That’s not my style,” Boyette said of the physical nature of the game. ” It was pretty painful. They’re pretty strong, but I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do.”
“Don’t tell anybody that,” Texas coach Karen Aston said after hearing Boyette’s comments.
Boyette hit 6 of her 13 shots from the field and 9 of her 12 free throws. Her 10 boards led both teams and she chipped in 2 blocked shots.
Texas (6-0) also received a solid game from forward Brianna Taylor, who was 4 for 4 from the floor and added 4 rebounds.
As for Boyette, she appears to be more of an offensive force this season. Aston said Boyette has always been known for her defensive pressure, but is looking to score more.
” I get yelled at for not shooting a lot,” Boyette said with a smile. “I’m trying to take more shots. We need a presence. Nneka (Enemkpali) was a big presence last season, and I’m trying to take over what we she left behind.”
Boyette’s performance helped overshadow some obvious shortcoming for Texas. The Longhorns had a season-worst 23 turnovers, mostly on passes that were easily batted away by Bulldog defenders. Texas also had trouble from the foul line, hitting 15 of 26.
“It was an ugly game,” Aston said. “They forced us to be uncomfortable. We left some shots on the table, missing some open layups and some free throws that might have separated us. This game will make us a much better basketball team.”
Bulldogs coach Vic Schaefer was disappointed by his team’s shooting (31.5 percent from the field), but added, “I’m proud of the way the competed their tails off.”
“This was a tough, physical basketball game,” Shaefer continued. “We usually win these kind of grind-it games.”
Mississippi State (5-1) missed its first 13 three-point attempts before guards Victoria Vivians and Blair Schaefer hit back-to-back treys midway through the fourth quarter. Vivians’ trey cut UT’s lead to 44-36, but the Bulldogs would get no closer.
UT guards Tasia Foman and Brooke McCarty hit consecutive field goals and senior Empress Davenport nailed a three-pointer from the left baseline to give the Longhorns a comfortable lead.
Coming off Sunday’s 64-53 victory over No. 4 Tennessee, Texas appeared to have a Lady Vol hangover, finishing the first half with 12 turnovers. Imani Boyette was the game’s only efficient player in the half, scoring 11 points to help give Texas a 26-21 lead at the break.
Mississippi State, the nation’s No. 2 scoring offense with 93.6 points per game, never gained offensive rhythm. The Bulldogs were 9 for 28 from the field in the half, 0 for 10 behind the three-point line.
The Bulldogs came to Austin with more impressive stats while waltzing through soft competition. The Bulldogs rank No. 1 nationally in scoring defense (37.2 PPG), No. 1 in scoring margin (56.4), No. 2 in rebounding margin (21.8 RPG) and No. 1 in turnover margin (plus-18.4).
Texas outrebounded MSU 41-30. Forward Kelsey Lang complemented Boyette’s 10 rebounds with 8 boards of her own.
Vivians paced the Bulldogs with 12 points on 5-of-20 shooting from the floor.
Texas will travel to the University of Arkansas-Little Rock. Tipoff will be 2 p.m.
NOTES: Texas took a 2-1 series lead over MSU. The Horns and Bulldogs will meet again next season in Starkville.