Gregory Gym hasn’t seen a basketball party like the one on Sunday since the spring of 1977.
The music — an eclectic mix of modern-day funk mixed with ’70s classics — helped introduce the 2016-17 Texas women’s basketball team. The eighth-ranked Longhorns showcased tested veterans with spunky newcomers and rolled to a 93-43 victory over Tarleton State in an exhibition at the fabled 4,000-seat on-campus facility.
Longhorn juniors Ariel Atkins and Brooke McCarty combined for 25 points to lead Texas.
It also marked the beginning of the Joyner Holmes era.
Holmes showed why Texas coaches celebrated after the 6-foot-3 inch freshman from Cedar Hill signed with the Longhorns. The player that coach Karen Aston described as “LeBron-esque” impressed with her muscle and genuine feel for the game, chipping in 11 points and five rebounds.
Junior Audrey-Ann Caron-Goudreau also made her presence felt in her debut, scoring 10 points and collecting a team-high eight rebounds.
“The best thing about the newcomers, and I say this all the time to our coaches, is that they are so atypical as far as looking overwhelmed all the time.”
A smaller-than-expected crowd of 1,258 showed up to the Longhorns exhibition. The only disappointment, however, was the lack of students in attendance. Playing the game in Gregory Gym instead of the usual home court in the Frank Erwin Center was a marketing move to take UT basketball to the people who might not normally go to women’s basketball games.
Aston said she was “disappointed” more fans didn’t come, but did not elaborate.
What will it take to improve attendance for women’s games?
“Students have to get over the stigma that men’s games are more entertaining than women’s game,” said Jarvis Dillard, a student. “They just think the women’s game isn’t as entertaining, but if they’d come see a game …”
Sophomore Kiana Johnson agreed, saying, “If the girls keep winning, they will come.”
After the game, Aston thanked the crowd for attending, telling the fans to “bring a friend” to future games.
“As you all can see, this is going to be a very, very, very, very good basketball team,” she told the crowd.
McCarty, who said she has come out of her “shell” this fall, has taken a leadership role in the absence of former players Imani Boyette, Brady Sanders, Empress Davenport and Celina Rodrigo. McCarty had six steals, including two that led to easy baskets in a 15-second span in the first half.
Freshman Alecia “Sug” Sutton looked healthy and confident after having knee surgery this past December, hitting a pair of three-pointers in her debut.
Texas opens its regular season on Monday, Nov. 14 at No. 11 Stanford. The Longhorns will play their home opener on Nov. 16 against Houston Baptist.