Longhorns down Oklahoma State in Big 12 tournament first round

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With the score within six, Brooke McCarty didn’t falter. In the biggest game of the season, the junior guard calmly knocked down a short jumper — prompting a run by Texas that would put the game away.

The well-rounded effort saw a cool and composed young team take care of business Saturday night, looking every bit the contender they aspire to be in a 71-60 victory.

The No. 2-seeded Longhorns claimed their first win of the 2017 Phillips 66 Big 12 Women's Basketball Championship in the quarterfinal round against the No. 7-seeded Oklahoma State Cowgirls.

After a slow first half for both teams, Texas opened up a 15-0 run in the final eight minutes of the third quarter, closing the door on any chance of what would have been the first upset of the tournament.

Spearheading the effort as she has all season long was McCarty, Big 12 Conference Player of the Year, who scored a team-high 13 points in addition to four assists and four rebounds.

Sophomore guard Lashann Higgs and sophomore forward Jordan Hosey added 12 and 10 off the bench respectively, part of four Texas players in double figures. Senior Kelsey Lang scored all ten of her points in the second half as Texas pulled ahead for good.

“One of the special things about this team is our team depth,” said assistant coach George Washington. “We got to use it tonight, definitely.”

The Cowgirls had a glimpse of daylight with 7:17 in the third after a jumper by Kaylee Jensen cut Texas’ lead to six, 41-35. But the burnt orange would not be denied, locking Oklahoma down for the better part of the remaining period. The team wouldn't score again until a free throw connected with 1:35 left in the quarter. But by then Texas had put together a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

The Longhorns controlled the tempo on both ends of the floor, bullying the Cowgirls in the paint by a  staggering 48-12 margin.

Both teams struggled to dial it in from deep all game long, shooting a combined 4–21 from behind the arc. Texas managed to find points in transition, scoring 12 points on the break while holding Oklahoma State scoreless in that area.

“An emphasis in closing out the conference play was getting back to our defensive principles,” Washington said. “And, you know, in our last game coming into the conference tournament, and tonight, I think we’re going back on that line of playing tough defense.”

Texas had won both meetings this season against Oklahoma State prior to tonight’s matchup by a combined 45 points.

The team entered the tournament at the No. 2 spot for the second consecutive year and advances to the semifinals to match up against either the No. 3-seeded Oklahoma or No. 6-seeded West Virginia tomorrow at 4 p.m.

After the game, Washington emphasized the importance of a deep bench in tournament play, especially for a team with long-term aspirations.

“Well, the concerns in the Big 12 tournament is three games in three days,” Washington said. “And you got to be very strategic in your substitutions and hoping the kids bring a lot of energy so that you can play your deep bench.”