As a habit, Karen Aston grabs herself a cup of coffee roughly 30 minutes before tip-off in order to send a jolt through her system.
That pre-game boost apparently has rubbed off on her players, too. Focused and itching to play, the Texas women’s basketball team has bolted to a 4-0 start in Big 12 play while putting together incredibly fast starts in each game.
In those four victories — 160 total minutes of playing time — the Longhorns have trailed for a mere 16 seconds.
Iowa State grabbed a 3-0 lead on Jan. 6, when Seanna Johnson sank a three-pointer in the first minute of a game at the Erwin Center. It took 16 seconds for Brooke McCarty to tie it with a three-pointer of her own, and the Horns rolled to a surprisingly easy 75-54 victory.
Her players often poke fun at Aston for her large consumption of java throughout the day, but for the Longhorns and their Big 12 opponents, UT’s quick getaways have been no laughing matter.
“The team has developed a mentality in practice that when we get going, they treat it like it’s the beginning of a game,” Aston said Tuesday. “They have learned that (starting fast) helps with their confidence, and they take pride in it.”
The fourth-ranked Longhorns (15-0) are riding high in the Big 12, outscoring their first four opponents by an average of 21.5 points a game. Their average halftime lead has been 15 points.
Texas has the benefit of a deep and talented roster, led by senior post Imani Boyette and senior guard Empress Davenport. The Horns also are blessed with an precocious group of young standouts, led by sophomore guards Brooke McCarty and Ariel Atkins, freshman forward Jordan Hosey and freshman guard Lashann Higgs.
Overall, the Longhorns qualify as mentally tougher and more mature than the group that finished 24-11 last season and reached the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament, Aston said.
Longtime Cyclones coach Bill Fennelly was impressed by how UT’s role players responded when given an opportunity to play.
“Some of those Texas kids came off the bench and were attacking the glass,” he said. “It looked like there were seven white jerseys (on the court) a couple of times. That’s a credit to their staff and to their kids. They’re going to be a tough out for a lot of people.”