On Wednesday against TCU, with 1:48 left to play and Texas ahead by two points, senior guard Brooke McCarty zig-zagged her way into the paint and raced toward the rim for a layup.
She’s performed the dance hundreds of times and typically choreographs a way to get points on the board. She’ll usually either kick the ball outside to an open teammate, lean into a late-arriving defender to earn free throws or wind the ball in for a score.
This time it was different.
TCU junior center Jordan Moore swatted the ball away, and sophomore guard Kianna Ray corralled it. It was McCarty’s last shot of the game, and her 20th miss in the last two games. The Longhorns lost to the Horned Frogs, 79-77.
McCarty is known for making shots, not missing them. For her career, she’s shot 44.4 percent from the field and 40.2 percent from three.
But something’s been off lately. Though she can score from anywhere on the floor, McCarty can’t seem to find her sweet spots, shooting just 25.9 and 15.4 percent, respectively, over the last two games.
This isn’t McCarty’s first shooting slump. During an early three-game stretch against Rice, Hampton and Tennessee in her sophomore year, she shot 7-for-24 from the floor and 3-for-13 from deep. McCarty was able to bounce back, and she dropped 23 points on Little Rock soon after.
Part of the problem can be attributed to McCarty’s size. It’s impossible to coach height. The senior stands at a small 5-foot-4, excluding her bun. The shortest defender she’s faced in the past two games, TCU freshman guard Lauren Heard, towers over McCarty by five inches.
McCarty usually makes up for her limitations by using her elite quickness to wiggle her way into open spaces. However, the past few games have been an exception. Her opponents have mostly kept her contained outside the arc, where McCarty has gone 4-for-23 over the last five games.
Opposing teams might also be focusing more on slowing McCarty down in their defensive schemes.
“There are some teams, now that we’ve opened up conference play, that are trying to take away certain things,” head coach Karen Aston said after the Longhorns’ win over No. 20 Oklahoma State on Jan. 3. “And you can kind of pick your poison as far as that’s concerned.”
When McCarty is the poison of choice, she tends to give up the ball to get her teammates more involved. She registered her first-career double-double against the Cowgirls and dished out a career-high 11 assists against the Horned Frogs.
However, McCarty falls out of her own rhythm when she becomes more passive. She dropped seven of her 10 dimes against Oklahoma State in the fourth quarter, but she missed both of her shots and only scored on a pair of free throws. She finished with just nine points against TCU on 4-of-14 shooting.
“She’s really enjoying the way this team is sharing the ball together. It’s fun to watch,” Aston said after Texas’ win over Louisiana Tech on Nov. 30. “I also think she needs to shoot sometimes when she doesn’t. Sometimes she’ll pass up open threes, and I just don’t know that she needs to do that.”
Whatever the case may be for McCarty, the Longhorns will need her to keep shooting and turn things around soon. Texas will host Kansas (11-5, 2-3 Big 12) on Saturday at 1 p.m. and No. 1 UConn (14-0, 4-0 American) on Monday at 6 p.m.