Winner goes to the Sweet 16
Posted March 20th, 2016
With 6-foot-7 Texas post Imani Boyette roaming the paint and 6-5 Kelsey Lang coming off the bench, the Longhorns have owned a size advantage over most of their 33 opponents.
That might not be the case when Texas faces Missouri in a second-round NCAA women’s basketball game Monday night at the Erwin Center.
Missouri counters with five starters, none shorter than 6 feet tall. By contrast, four of UT’s starters range from 5-4 Brooke McCarty to 5-11 Ariel Atkins.
“This concerns me, because Missouri has an offensive concept of knowing how to mismatch you,” said Texas coach Karen Aston, who scouted three quarters of Missouri’s 78-69 victory over BYU Saturday night.
Texas won’t dismiss Missouri’s tall wall, but the Longhorns have faced teams in the Big 12 that have tall guards. In Saturday’s 86-42 victory over Alabama State, McCarty and Atkins utilized their speed and quickness driving to the basketball instead of shooting over the Lady Hornets.
The winner between 10th-seeded Missouri (22-9) and second-seeded Texas (29-4) advances to the Sweet 16 round next weekend in Bridgeport, Conn. The team that survives at the Erwin Center will play the winner of Monday’s UCLA-South Florida game next Saturday.
Texas was still excited Sunday after outscoring Alabama State 54-20 in the second half. With all 13 players on the roster scoring at least two points, the Longhorns showed they have tremendous depth.
But while Alabama State and BYU — Saturday’s losers — relied heavily on one or two players to score, Texas and Missouri spread the offensive wealth.
Missouri’s must-watch player is 6-1 forward Sophie Cunningham, who torched BYU for 20 points. The Southeastern Conference freshman of the year set a school record with 42 points Nov. 22 against Wake Forest.
Cunningham gave the Tigers a comfortable lead in the second half against BYU, hitting all six of her third-quarter shots, many from point-blank range near the hoop.
“Cunningham killed us in the post,” said BYU coach Jeff Judkins. “Missouri spreads the court very well, so it’s hard to get help in the post, but they do have a very good post presence — a lot better than ours.”
Taking advantage of its height, Missouri ranks 24th in the nation (out of 344 teams) in rebounding margin, averaging 7.7 boards more than its opponents. Junior forward Jordan Frericks noted that Missouri outrebounded BYU 30-20 and will aim to outrebound Texas by 10 on Monday.
That might be a tall order, considering Texas ranks 16th in the nation in rebounding margin, averaging 9.5 more boards than its opponents.
Aston said the Longhorns have a few more goals to attain, beginning with a victory in the final game this season at the Erwin Center.
“Our seniors already knew what we wanted to accomplish this season,” said Boyette, referring to team goals set in October. “We always have a meeting with the coaches before the season starts. Our senior class tells them what those goals will be. … the Big 12 championship was one of our goals, but unfortunately, we didn’t get that. But we have a lot more games to play and more goals to accomplish.”
The next attainable goal — beating Missouri and going to the Sweet 16 for the second straight year.