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Texas 81, Bradley 62: In NCAA tourney return, Charli Collier defends herself with her play

Texas forward Charli Collier battles for a rebound with Bradley forwards Nyjah White and Emily Marsh during the Longhorns' 81-62 first-round win in the NCAA Tournament at Strahan Arena in San Marcos. Collier scored 23 points to lead Texas.

SAN MARCOS — A Bradley fan called Charli Collier overrated Monday night.

For the record, Collier's coach described her as dominant.

Whatever you want to say about Collier, don't leave out the part about her being second-round bound. Texas' All-American scored 23 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in the sixth-seeded Longhorns' 81-62 win at Texas State's Strahan Arena.

Collier also added a fourth-quarter block that was recorded just seconds after someone from Bradley's cheering section began chanting that Collier — the presumed first pick in next month's WNBA Draft — was "overrated."

After the victory, Collier downplayed the chant as extra noise. She was more focused on the win that advanced Texas (19-9) to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2018. The Longhorns will play third-seeded UCLA on Wednesday.

"Great team win. I feel like everybody was bought in tonight," Collier said. "We competed on both sides of the floor and we got the win and got the job done."

Texas guard Kyra Lambert drives against Bradley forward Tete Danso during the second half of the Longhorns' win on Monday. Texas, seeded sixth in the NCAA Tournament, next meets third-seeded UCLA on Wednesday.

Bradley (17-12), playing in its first-ever NCAA Tournament, initially appeared to be a worthy sparring partner for Texas. The Longhorns missed 11 of their first 12 shots, and with 4:10 left in the first quarter, Bradley was even up 7-6.

Then, the first quarter reached its final minute. 

With exactly a minute left, Collier muscled in her first points of the game. Bradley attempted to answer, but Celeste Taylor swiped the ball and found Joanne Allen-Taylor for a 3-pointer in transition. Bradley then committed its seventh turnover of the opening quarter on its ensuing possession, and Collier made the Missouri Valley Conference representatives pay with another 3-pointer.

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That one-minute spurt turned an 11-7 Longhorns lead into a 12-point advantage for Texas by the end of the quarter. The Longhorns were up 44-30 at halftime. Bradley never got within 10 points the rest of the way.

"(That first-quarter run) gave us a lot of juice, a lot of energy," Collier said. "We came out really strong and as a team. We just have to keep that momentum going forward and not slack up. It's all about consistency, so we got those big runs and we have to continue to do that."

"That first quarter really hurt us," Bradley coach Andrea Gorski said. "Once we settled down, I liked what we were able to do out there."

Bradley center Uchechi Ufochukwu shoots over Texas forward Charli Collier in the first half Monday. Collier, a junior, is expected to be one of the top picks in next month's WNBA draft, perhaps even the first player taken.

Texas scored 22 points off 14 Bradley turnovers. The Longhorns grabbed a season-high 22 offensive rebounds. Audrey Warren scored 15 of her 19 points in the first half and Allen-Taylor finished with 12.

Collier, playing her final games as a Longhorn, produced her 18th double-double performance this season. She made eight of her 11 shots.

In the postgame press conference, Collier insisted that she didn't care about "overrated" chants in the fourth quarter. Texas coach Vic Schaefer wasn't as diplomatic.

"That chanting, that's a crock of you know what," he said. "I heard that in our Big 12 Tournament, too. That's about as classless as any adult can be that's going to do that to a kid. These aren't pros. You ain't paying $100 to come into these games."

Schaefer continued: "That's your answer to somebody being good? She ain't just good, she's great. ... So to stand up there and do that, it's bush (league). It really is. It reveals the character of those individuals and really the people they're representing to be honest."

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Of the 10 Longhorns who played, only Collier, Warren and Kyra Lambert had ever appeared in an NCAA Tournament game. Warren started in Texas' first-round loss to Indiana in 2019. When asked to recall that experience this past weekend, she told reporters that "the one thing that obviously I remember is losing, which isn't the best."

After Monday night, she and her teammates now have a better memory to associate with March Madness.

Tip-ins: Texas and UCLA (17-5) will play at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Alamodome; it will be aired on ESPN2. ... Bradley was led by Lasha Petree's 33 points, the most points a Texas opponent has scored this season. The previous best game against the Longhorns was by West Virginia's Kirsten Deans, who scored 30 points against UT in early February.