Back in the mid-1990s, when Karen Aston held her first college job at Baylor, she developed passion and knowledge for recruiting with the help of a more experienced fellow assistant coach on that staff.
Larry Tidwell had a court-side spot Thursday night to watch the results of his instruction and example.
Texas, the 16th-ranked team in the country with players from three straight recruiting classes that have been ranked among the top 11 nationally, defeated Tidwell’s UT-Rio Grande Valley team 85-61 at the Erwin Center. It was the 500th victory for Texas (4-4) at the Erwin Center, where they have played since 1977.
Freshman Joyner Holmes — one of those big recent recruits for Aston — produced 16 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. Kelsey Lang had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Holmes and Lang are the first Longhorns with double-doubles in the same game since January 2013.
Brooke McCarty scored 14 points with six assists. Jada Underwood scored 12.
Aston said she was the equivalent of a graduate assistant under head coach Sonja Hogg when she worked with Tidwell.
“The best thing Larry taught me was that he outworked people all the time, if it meant 500 mail-outs or phone calls to a high school coach every day,” Aston said.
Tidwell believes he and Aston learned a strong work ethic in their previous jobs as high school coaches.
“We both were grinders,” Tidwell said. “We’re gonna work 24/7, 365 on recruiting. Karen Aston has done an incredible job.”
Shwante’ Goff and Bernesha Peters scored 12 points each to lead Rio Grande Valley (5-6), which was particularly overmatched inside. The Longhorns had a 54-10 scoring advantage in the paint.
Rio Grande Valley trailed 46-32 at halftime, avoiding demolition by converting 8 of 20 three-point attempts. The Longhorns shot a strong 52 percent in the half and scored 32 points in the paint despite missing several layups. The 6-5 Lang and 6-3 Holmes were the main culprits against an opponent with no player taller than 6-2 in the lineup.
Rio Grande Valley made only two treys in the second half, and Texas kept maneuvering inside for baskets.
“We’re not physical enough inside,” Tidwell said.
Aston, meanwhile, was not pleased with the Longhorns’ defense.
“We’ve had better days,” she said.
One reason for that is Aston has a rotation that includes three freshmen and a sophomore. One of those freshmen, point guard Alecia Sutton, said young players have to make a big adjustment.
“The most important thing is defend the ball,” Sutton said.
The Longhorns were shorthanded. Starting guard Ariel Atkins missed her second straight game since suffering a concussion against Connecticut on Dec. 4. Atkins was injured when she slipped and fell backward while attempting a behind-the-back dribble in traffic.
Longhorns forward Audrey-Ann Caron-Goudreau also missed the game with a bruised left knee that she suffered on Sunday when a Tennessee player stumbled, fell and hit her from behind. She is listed as day-to-day. Caron-Goudreau, who has started three games this season, caught a break. The injury looked like it might have been worse as she lay face-down on the court for several minutes in apparent pain.
NOTE: The Texas coaching staff and players will conduct a clinic for kids in the eighth grade or under at the Erwin Center Saturday about 10 minutes after the conclusion of their game against Texas-San Antonio. The game starts at 5 p.m. The athletic department encourages parents to pre-register participants by emailing name, age and grade to firstname.lastname@example.org.