Posted March 20th, 2016
Texas coach Karen Aston knew the game was special after taking one glimpse of the stat sheet.
For the first time this season, all 13 Longhorns scored. Ariel Atkins led a balanced attack with 15 points to lead the Longhorns to an 86-42 victory over Alabama State in the opening round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament Saturday night at the Erwin Center.
The Longhorns (29-4) will play Missouri (22-9) at 8 p.m. Monday for the right to advance to the Sweet 16 round next weekend in Bridgeport, Conn.
This was one of UT’s most impressive games of the season. They earned a 40-4 edge in points in the paint, outrebounded the Lady Hornets 50-29, and outscored them 22-6 in second-chance points.
“It’s pretty cool to give everyone a chance to play and see everyone score a basket,” Aston said.
Empress Davenport got Texas off to a good start, scoring 8 of her 12 points in the first quarter on 3-for-3 shooting from the field. Brooke McCarty scored 11 of her 13 points in the second half. Although she was limited to 18 minutes, senior post Imani Boyette rattled the Lady Hornets, finishing with 10 rebounds and 3 blocked shots to complement her 6 points.
“We just play with so much depth,” said Davenport, a senior guard. “So if one person isn’t getting it done, we have a lot of others we can look up to…. Our guards were great and we just fed off our post players and I think our post players fed off of us.”
Atkins said UT’s size advantage — Alabama State’s tallest player was 6-2 — played a factor in UT’s big edge inside the paint.
“We made it a point to get the ball inside the paint and not shoot so many outside jumpers,” the sophomore guard said. “We were disciplined to take what we could.”
If there was a turning point, it was UT’s 10-0 scoring run in the first four minutes of the third quarter. The Longhorns, looking out of sync in the first half, had a 32-22 lead at the break.
“In a game like this you have to be able to score, and we had a complete scoring drought in the third quarter,” coach Freda Freeman-Jackson said.
Texas played its best basketball in the second half, outscoring the Lady Hornets 54-20.
“It took us a half to settle into the discipline of the game and not run around because you’re so excited to be here,” she said. “Once we did that, we played pretty good basketball.”
It didn’t help Alabama State to have its best players — forward Britney Wright and center Jasmine Peeples — have sub-par games. Wright, the team’s leading scorer, tallied 7 points on 2-for-9 shooting and Peeples went 0-for-6 from the field and gathered just 3 rebounds.
Alabama State scored on just 22.2 percent of its shot, the lowest percentage for a Texas opponent all season.
In Saturday’s opener, Missouri forward Jordan Frericks scored 20 points and guard Sophie Cunningham tallied 19 to pace the 10th-seeded Tigers to a 78-69 victory over No. 7 seed BYU. It was Missouri’s first tournament victory in 15 years.