Brooke McCarty saw something she liked prior to Texas’ 78-50 victory over Central Arkansas on Friday.
The junior guard couldn’t stop staring at the national championship ring on Mack Brown’s finger as he spoke to the Longhorns before the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
“I think his overall message was basically to stay in the moment and have fun,” McCarty said. “This NCAA Tournament should be more about the team than yourself. When we do it together, it's going to be fun. We just have to take it one game at a time.”
The former Texas football coach earned the bling by leading the Longhorns to a national championship during the 2005 season. With tournament action in full swing, head coach Karen Aston hopes to reach similar heights with her squad.
“I think it's always good when you hear from a former Longhorn or someone that's been there and done it,” Aston said. “His words are really good. He talked about staying in the moment, being the best you can be, being about the team –– all those things that you have to do to make a run.”
North Carolina State stands between Texas and its third consecutive trip to the Sweet Sixteen. The sixth-seeded Wolfpack boast a dominant backcourt led by senior guards Miah Spencer and Dominique Wilson. The duo combined for 36 points in North Carolina State’s first-round victory over Auburn on Friday.
“The one thing that's striking about NC State is I'm not sure they have a lot of weaknesses,” Aston said. “They do things really solidly. You can tell when you scout them that they have a game plan and they're disciplined enough to follow it. That was what was the most striking thing to me as I watched them in person.”
Wolfpack head coach Wes Moore and his team are no strangers to pulling off an upset on an opponent’s home court. The Wolfpack earned victories over four top-15 opponents during the regular season, including two on the road against then-No. 6 Florida State and then-No. 9 Louisville.
McCarty leads the Longhorns with speed and ease. The Big 12 Player of the Year scored a team-high 15 points against Central Arkansas on Friday and connected on 3-of-4 shots from beyond the arc.
“You start with McCarty,” Moore said. “She makes 'em go, leading 3-point shooter, 2-to-1 assist to turnover ratio. Does a great job of getting out and pushing it.
The Longhorns’ quickness and rim protection allowed them to cruise past Central Arkansas in the opening round as they corralled 55 rebounds, including 20 offensive boards, and blocked 10 shots.
“I feel like they're a very fast team,” Wilson said. “As soon as they get the ball, they're pushing and everyone is running. So limiting them to one shot and stopping them in transition would be the two biggest keys.”
But Moore is especially concerned with the size of Texas’ bigs and the imminent threat they pose on both offense and defense.
Freshman forward Joyner Holmes has a unique ability to grab a rebound, soar down the court and finish on the other end.
“(Joyner) Holmes, tough match-up,” Moore said. “Great size, can take off with the ball in transition and go coast-to-coast with it.”
Sunday’s game between Texas and North Carolina State will be the final home game for the Longhorns this season. The second-round matchup begins at 1:30 p.m. at the Frank Erwin Center.