Ariel Atkins

Photo Credit: Anthony Mireles | Daily Texan Staff

KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Ariel Atkins gave her all to the Longhorns’ program, even down to the last second.

The senior guard walked off the court of the Sprint Center after Friday’s season-ending loss to 3-seeded UCLA in the NCAA Tournament, knowing it was the last time she’d don the burnt orange and white she’d worn with such pride over the past four years.

The journey concluded as Texas fell, 84-75, in a game that was an uphill battle the whole way through.

The Bruins outplayed the Longhorns from the opening tip, employing a full-court press that forced seven Texas turnovers in the first quarter. Even when they could break the press, the Longhorns couldn’t buy a basket as they shot an abysmal 5-for-16. UCLA capitalized on the sluggish start, claiming a 19-11 lead at the end of the first.

“We were a little uncharacteristic with the basketball,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said. “We just had inopportune turnovers, obviously way too many, (early on). You have to give UCLA a lot of credit.”

That lead ballooned to 11 for the Bruins in the second quarter with 3:28 remaining. Every attempt by Texas to chip away at the lead was answered by a UCLA run as the Bruins took a 39-31 advantage into the half.

Texas retreated to its locker room, just two quarters away from seeing its season come to an abrupt end. But Atkins held her head high as she prepared to come back out for the start of the second half.

She wasn’t going down without a fight.

Atkins set the tone in the third quarter, starting it off with a corner three that ignited the Longhorn bench. The senior guard then delivered on the defensive end, stealing the ball and dishing a no-look assist to junior forward Jatarie White on the fastbreak.

Texas rallied behind its senior leader, igniting a 14-3 run to claim a 45-42 lead with 6:50 remaining in the third — its first lead of the game.

“Our message at halftime was to stick to our game,” Atkins said. “We hadn’t played our type of basketball in the first half, but I feel like in the third quarter we found a flow.”

But UCLA held its composure, responding with a back-breaking 17-4 run to take a commanding 59-49 lead entering the final quarter of play.

Desperate to keep her season — and her career — alive, Atkins kept fighting.

The 5-foot-11 guard kicked off the final quarter by sinking a contested layup, trimming the lead to eight. She found her way into the paint once more on the following possession, snagging an offensive board and finishing from close range.

Once again the Bruins didn’t budge, extending the lead back to double digits thanks to UCLA’s Jordin Canada. The Longhorns had no answer for the senior guard as she torched Texas for 20 points in the second half.

“In the second half, (Canada) just decided to take over,” senior guard Brooke McCarty said. “When she gets going, it’s going to be a tough matchup. She really managed the game well.”

With just eight seconds remaining in the game, UCLA secured the final rebound and began to dribble the clock out. Atkins full-court pressed until the buzzer sounded.

Atkins totaled 11 points in the final quarter, finishing with a team-high 20 points to go along with seven rebounds in the loss.

The heartbreaking defeat marked the final chapter for a player who led the Longhorns to four straight Sweet 16 appearances, establishing a standard for the program for years to come.

“I’m extremely blessed to have had this opportunity,” Atkins said. “God opened up a lot of doors for me since I’ve been here. Now the stage is set for our younger players to take off. They know what they need to do.”

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

No. 2-seeded Texas cruised to an 83-54 victory over No. 15-seeded Maine on Saturday evening in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. With the win, the Longhorns will take on No. 7-seeded Arizona State on Monday at 8 p.m.

Here are four takeaways from Saturday’s game:

Longhorns box out

Texas used every inch of its reach advantage to build a 43-12 advantage on the boards. Maine never grabbed more than two rebounds in a single quarter.

Sophomore guard Blanca Millan secured the first board of the game for the Black Bears at the 2:17 mark in the first quarter. By the end of the quarter, sophomore forward Joyner Holmes had more rebounds (five) than Maine’s entire team (two).

Texas head coach Karen Aston emphasized to her team before the game how important winning the rebounding battle would be.

“That was one of the things that we actually had on the (team’s) board,” junior guard Lashann Higgs said. “It was like ‘rebound,’ with an exclamation mark, so we knew exactly what we tried to do was rebound.”

Brooke McCarty takes it easy

Brooke McCarty tied with Holmes for a team-high seven rebounds. But she didn’t show the same aggression on offense.

The senior guard didn’t take a shot until late in the second quarter. McCarty knocked down a trey off a dime from junior forward Olamide Aborowa with four seconds left in the half. She didn’t take her next shot until the 7:47 mark in the fourth quarter.

McCarty finished the game with seven points on 2-of-3 shooting and two assists. Aston was still pleased with the point guard’s performance, especially on the boards.

“I love point guards that rebound,” Aston said. “She's discovered ways to maneuver and pick up the loose ones when people box out. But I do love point guards that rebound, because we like to transition and it obviously starts your transition game if your point guard already has the ball in her hands.”

Ariel Atkins is made for March

Senior guard Ariel Atkins had much more success on offense. She hunted for open looks and knocked them down at every turn. She drained a triple from the right corner in Texas’ first possession of the game and never looked back.

Atkins finished the game with 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting, including 2-of-3 from deep. She was just as effective in everything else, racking up four rebounds, four assists and two steals. She hopes the performance carries over moving forward in the NCAA Tournament.

“I think it gives us a good amount of confidence,” Atkins said. “I think the confidence comes from knowing what we did. We focused on their tendencies and what they did well. And I think we actually used our preparation and listened to our coaches and we stuck with the game plan. I think that's where the confidence comes from.”

So much for trimming the rotation

Aston knows she’ll need to cut down on her bench minutes at some point during the NCAA Tournament. But as long as her team can build a lead, as it did against Maine, she’s happy to give her starters a rest.

“We were able, luckily, in the Big 12 Tournament to play a lot of people because we did have a lead in both games where we were able to do that,” Aston said at Texas’ pregame press conference on Friday. “I mean, the rotation trims in tournament play. I think that's a realistic statement. I think the bigger key is just getting everybody prepared, even if it's a minute or two.”

Texas led 23-8 by the end of the first quarter, and Aston turned to her substitutes. The bench players combined for 128 minutes and 19 points. Each player was on the floor for at least 12 minutes.

“You just don't ever know when your number's going to get called in NCAA Tournament play,” Aston said after the game. “So I think it was very good for everyone to get some playing time and get their feet wet with the NCAA Tournament.”

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

Ariel Atkins jogged onto the court at the Frank Erwin Center on Saturday determined to survive.

For four years the senior guard had given the Texas program everything she had. Now she found herself in what could be the final chapter of her collegiate career, taking on 15-seeded Maine in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

Saturday would not be the end, though, as Atkins willed the Longhorns to a statement 83-54 win in a game that was over from the jump.

“I was very pleased with how we started the game,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said. “I thought that our team was very locked in. We paid attention to detail, shot the ball well and did a lot of things really sharply.”

Atkins set the tone in the opening quarter, sinking an uncontested three from the corner on Texas’ first possession. It took just two minutes for her to get the ball behind the arc again — this time drilling the long-range bomb right in front of an outstretched Maine defender.

But Atkins wasn’t finished. The Duncanville, Texas, native soared to the rim among the bigs with 4:34 left, snagging an offensive rebound and converting on the easy putback to give Texas a 14-6 lead.

Maine head coach Amy Vachon burned the Black Bears’ first timeout shortly afterward, desperate to get her team back on track.

It didn’t work. The Longhorns closed the quarter on a 9-0 run to take a commanding 23-8 lead.

“We definitely knew that we needed to be focused,” Atkins said. “We knew what (Maine) was capable of doing, so that was important for us (early on).”

Texas fed off Atkins’ intensity, opening up a 56-24 lead by the midway point of the third quarter. Atkins kept attacking, pulling up on a fastbreak and draining a shot from the free throw line.

The senior called for the ball once again on the following possession, drifting to the corner and hitting on a mid-range jumper to give the Longhorns a 60-26 advantage with 4:44 to go in the third.

Atkins’ night came to a close with 4:53 left in the fourth quarter as Aston subbed out her starters. The Longhorns finished the game with ease.

Atkins totaled 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the victory. Junior forward Jatarie White also had a strong outing, posting a game-high 17 points in 20 minutes.

The win is a strong start to the tournament for a Texas team that enters the postseason clicking on all cylinders.

“We definitely are playing as more of a team,” junior guard Lashann Higgs said. “That’s something that we’ve been working on throughout the season. It’s been a fun year.”

The road to Texas’ first Final Four appearance since 2003 continues on Monday as the Longhorns host 7-seeded Arizona State at 8 p.m. The Sun Devils enter the second round matchup fresh off a 73-62 victory over 10-seeded Nebraska on Saturday.

Although the game will mark Atkins’ final outing in front of the fans at the Frank Erwin Center, the senior hopes it won’t be her last time in burnt orange.

All she has to do is survive.

“They’ve been the best fans that I’ve ever been around,” Atkins said. “I’m just so thankful for this program and everything it’s done for me.”

Photo Credit: Juan Figueroa | Daily Texan Staff

Ariel Atkins has become Texas’ level-headed, battle-tested leader over her four years with the team. But on Friday, for the first time in a long time, she was anxious.  

The Longhorns had just wrapped up their usual practice routine at the Frank Erwin Center, running the fast break, knocking down threes and working on post moves.

This practice was different, though. It marked the final session before the second-seeded Longhorns’ Saturday matchup against fifteen-seeded Maine in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

And although a loss would mean the end of Texas’ season, for Atkins, it would mean the end of an era.

“I guess you could say it's not nerve-wracking, but it is butterflies,” Atkins said. “This is my last time, my last chance to be a part of this program. Just can’t say enough about it.”

Atkins first stepped foot on the 40 Acres in the summer of 2014, joining a Longhorns team that had just suffered yet another early exit in the NCAA Tournament the previous season. The Duncanville, Texas, native made an immediate impact, making 19 starts and helping Texas to its first Sweet 16 appearance in a decade.

Fast forward 1,367 points and 106 wins later, and the senior gunslinger is now on her last ride, determined to extend it.

“It’s one of those things where you don’t want it to end,” Atkins said. “I love this team and everything about this program. I’m just thankful to be here and excited to keep it going.”

Texas’ tournament run starts with an opening-round matchup against a Maine team that’s carrying a six-game win streak into the postseason. The Black Bears are led by a backcourt duo of sophomore Blanca Millan and junior Tanesha Sutton, who combined for an average of 29.8 points per game during the regular season.

“They can shoot the three really well,” head coach Karen Aston said. “But they can score in a lot of different ways, so we’re going to have to be really good on defense.”

Atkins will have plenty of backcourt help herself, though, as fellow senior guard Brooke McCarty will also look to extend her collegiate career. The dynamic duo has been the driving force to Texas’ success over the past four years, leading the Longhorns all the way to the Elite Eight in 2016.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily hit me yet,” McCarty said. “It’s crazy to think this is our last go around. I'm just taking it day by day, having fun with it and enjoying these last moments.”

Texas will look to lean on Atkins and McCarty once more come Saturday as the Longhorns deal with a depleted frontcourt. Senior forward Audrey-Ann Caron-Goudreau has been out since Feb. 10 with a bruised left wrist, and freshman forward Rellah Boothe was declared unavailable for the postseason on Thursday due to an undisclosed personal reason.

“I think (Caron-Goudreau and Boothe) definitely are important to our team,” McCarty said. “But we have the people who we have, so we need to play, go to the next day, and keep rolling.”

Texas will have plenty of support in the stands, though, as the Longhorns will host the match in front of their fans at the Frank Erwin Center at 5 p.m. on Saturday – something Atkins has come to appreciate over the years

“It'll definitely be exciting to see them screaming and hollering and going crazy for us,” Atkins said. “They’ve always shown support, so it means a lot to be able to play in front of them again.”

Although Saturday’s matchup could be Atkins and McCarty’s last time in burnt orange, the senior duo remains focused; determined to earn the Final Four appearance that’s eluded them thus far.

Until then, it’s business as usual.

“I think (McCarty and I) came here and have given Texas everything we have,” Atkins said. “But we still have more to go. At this point it's just fighting for the next day.”

Photo Credit: Juan Figueroa | Daily Texan Staff

It was a different kind of film session.

During the 2015–16 season, Texas head coach Karen Aston called her team into the film room. The players expected to see clips from their most recent game. Aston had other plans.

Videos of the Longhorns’ softball team flickered on the screen, specifically Texas’ dugout. The bench came alive after every hit, run and stolen base. The players celebrated each other’s accomplishments. Aston envied all of it.

“We need more energy on the bench,” Aston said to her team.

Then-freshman forward Jordan Hosey agreed.

“You know what?” Hosey thought to herself. “Now’s the time for people to start actually seeing who I really am.”

Since then, Hosey leaps out of her seat for every foul call, fast-break layup and far-ranging 3-pointer her teammates earn. Now a junior, she’s got an entire repertoire of moves at her disposal.

Roll in an and-one layup, and Hosey toes the sideline with her biceps curled. Drain a triple over the hand of a defender and Hosey covers her eyes with one hand and pretends to shoot with the other. She grinds out jumping jacks, shreds an air guitar and dances to the music in her head. 

“She just does a lot of things that creates a better vibe for our team,” senior guard Ariel Atkins said. “She creates a culture. You can’t put that in the stat sheet.”

Sometimes, she makes them up on the spot. Other times, she resorts to her favorites.

When the bench gets bogged down, Hosey becomes a photographer. She runs to the end of the floor, squats down and snaps pictures with an invisible camera. All of her teammates strike their favorite pose.

“I love, ‘The Picture,’” Hosey said. “I just feel like the crowd can see our team, like how they really are, doing what they can do best.”

The energy that Hosey brings has defined her role on the team. Her teammates play harder when she’s turned up, motivated to bring on the next celebration from Hosey. She doesn’t need to play to impact the game. But it doesn’t hurt, though.

In high school, Hosey and No. 16 Manvel played for the championship game in the UIL State Basketball Tournament on March 2, 2014. They matched up with No. 2 Duncanville, led by Hosey’s future teammate, Ariel Atkins.

Manvel had lost to Duncanville once already earlier in the season. Hosey wanted to make sure that didn’t happen again. She started talking trash to Atkins, trying to get in her head. Atkins was caught off guard.

“Ariel didn’t like me,” Hosey said.

“It was just more so annoying than anything else,” Atkins said. “She’s a good trash-talker.”

The mind games worked. After an 18-point first half, Atkins scored just six points in the second, and Duncanville fell to Manvel, 58-53. 

“I wasn’t a fan of Jordan Hosey coming into college and when she came here,” Atkins said. “But, that’s part of her game. That’s who she is. So, I guess when she is trash-talking, you can tell it’s a part of her confidence in her game.”

Hosey makes it her mission to get under the skin of her opponents when she enters the game. She’s the self-proclaimed best trash-talker on the team. She scampers all over the hardwood, forcing plodding defenders to chase her. 

Nothing works better than getting run over.

“I love charges,” Hosey said. “I’m an undersized post — I’m little compared to everybody else in our league that plays my position. I know I’m not going to be able to block shots like I did in high school. I just feel like my foot speed is faster than a normal-sized four. So, why not just beat them to the spot and let them run over me?”

Though the best parts of her game don’t show up in the box score, Hosey’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. She started over sophomore forward Joyner Holmes in the Longhorns’ 79-66 win over Oklahoma on Tuesday night and finished with eight points, three assists and two rebounds. 

Aston’s enjoyed seeing her thrive.

“I think Jordan’s just found her niche,” Aston said after the game. “She does give us energy, and she is always a great teammate. She gives our team enthusiasm. And I think every team needs someone like that — that’s kind of selfless. And that’s pretty much Jordan in a nutshell.”

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

Lashann Higgs couldn’t quite perfect her form.

Prior to No. 6 Texas’ 72-59 victory over Iowa State on Saturday, the junior guard had made just one 3-pointer in February. Her 14-point performance in an 87-55 home win over Iowa State on Jan. 27 was the last time she had scored double digits in a game.

Unsure of what was going wrong, she sought help from her coaches.

“Lashann is just one of our players that looks for help or instruction and constructive criticism to get better,” Texas associate head coach Tina Thompson said. “Especially at this time during the year, or because we have time limits, you can’t make them get in the gym. It has to be something that they want to do.”

Higgs was shooting around with Thompson before a practice on Feb. 9 at Denton A. Cooley Pavilion. Thompson wanted Higgs to catch the ball, dip and elevate for her shot in a single, fluid motion.

Higgs was a bit jerky — she kept raising her arms a split second after extending her legs during the jump. The delay threw her shot off.

“Just go down and up,” Thompson said, before passing the ball back to Higgs. “Down and up.”

Higgs has been dealing with ups and downs all season. She shot just 21.7 percent from deep during her sophomore season but has improved to 33.3 percent this year. She’s made three times as many treys.

The downs have been more common this month, though, especially on the offensive end. Before Saturday’s game, Higgs had made just one of her last seven shots from outside.

With two games left in the season, Higgs knew she didn’t have much time to figure things out. She finally turned things around in Ames, Iowa.

Late in the first quarter, junior center Jatarie White caught the ball in the middle of the floor and squared up with the basket. She noticed Higgs’ defender sagging off to help and kicked the ball to Higgs in the left corner. Higgs dipped, elevated and nailed the triple in a single, fluid motion.

She sank another with 6:16 remaining in the fourth quarter. Sophomore guard Alecia Sutton used an in-and-out crossover to get past her man and penetrate into the paint. Higgs’ defender sagged off again, and Sutton found her open on the right wing. Higgs knocked down the three, bringing her point total up to 12 and ending a seven-game single-digit point streak.

“The way (Higgs) scores is kind of, probably, different than any player in the country,” Thompson said. “She’s able to just use her genetic ability to kind of create things or make things happen that are pretty abnormal for most of us.”

Higgs finished Saturday’s game with 14 points, four rebounds, five assists and one steal. Texas (23–5, 14–3 Big 12) will need her to remain consistent on both ends of the floor as the team enters the postseason.

She’s also thrived as the team’s defensive stopper all year, averaging 1.6 steals per game.

“That’s the only way you can test yourself to see how good of a defender you really are,” Higgs said. “(I enjoy) guarding the best player.”

Senior guards Ariel Atkins and Brooke McCarty combined for 33 points and 15 rebounds against Iowa State, including a career-high 11 rebounds from McCarty. The pair look to close out their final season with a higher sense of urgency.

The Longhorns conclude their regular season against Oklahoma on Tuesday. Tipoff for senior night is set for 6 p.m.

Photo Credit: Anthony Mireles | Daily Texan Staff

Senior guard Brooke McCarty walked off the court on Monday night to the sight of a standing ovation and with her head held high.

The scoreboard of No. 6 Texas’ game against No. 3 Baylor showed a 93-87 victory for the Bears. And although they’d missed out on their biggest win of the season, the Longhorns felt they’d left it all on the court at the Frank Erwin Center.

Texas entered the battle of the Big 12’s top two teams determined to avenge its 81-56 loss to the Bears on Jan. 25, fighting tooth and nail with Baylor to force an 11-11 tie with 6:13 left in the first quarter.

The Bears awoke from their slumber, launching a 9-2 run fueled by six Texas turnovers. McCarty had an answer, though, as the senior guard sank a pair of consecutive open threes to cut the Baylor lead to 23-19 at the break.

“I thought our turnovers in the first quarter set us back a little bit,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said. “I thought we were playing very well defensively, but we just got in too much of a hurry.”

Desperate to shake the stingy Longhorns, Baylor hit even harder in the second quarter. The Bears began to crash the glass, out-rebounding an undersized Texas squad, 17-7.

McCarty kept Texas above water once again, lighting up the Bears for six points as the Longhorns cut the lead to 39-35 with 50 seconds before halftime.

But Baylor ended the quarter with a pair of unanswered buckets to claim a 43-35 lead at the half.

“I can’t look away from the rebounding number,” Aston said. “It was very clearly the difference in the game, and there were critical moments where we couldn’t get a defensive rebound.”

The Longhorns finally landed some punches of their own in the third quarter as Joyner Holmes began to expose the Baylor frontcourt. The sophomore forward gave an edge to a Texas team that’d been struggling to keep pace all night, scoring four points and totaling five boards in the quarter.

Atkins brought the crowd to its feet with 5:33 left, finishing on a fastbreak layup to give Texas a 51-50 lead — its first since 7:10 remained in the first quarter.

The one-point advantage lasted just 15 seconds as Baylor senior guard Kristy Wallace sank a floater on the baseline, igniting a 14-5 Baylor run. The Bears created separation once again, entering the fourth quarter with a 68-59 lead.

The Bears went for the knockout punch in the final quarter as Baylor sophomore forward Lauren Cox sunk a right-handed hook shot, plus the foul, to give her team a 77-62 lead with 6:44 left in the game.

Despite the game seemingly being out of reach, Texas kept fighting. McCarty continued to let it fly, drilling four three-pointers and posting 16 points in the quarter.

A late Longhorn comeback fell just short as the Bears escaped Austin with a six-point win.

McCarty finished the night with a career-high 32 points on 7-of-9 shooting from deep. The strong performance was a welcomed sight for a player who has shot just 32.5 percent from 3-point range all season.

Holmes also continued to show progress in the starting slot, finishing just shy of a double-double performance with 10 points and nine rebounds.

The Longhorns (22–5, 13–3 Big 12) hope to rebound from Monday’s loss as the Big 12 tournament, and a possible rematch against Baylor, looms in the distance.

“I think as a competitor you never want to lose,” McCarty said. “But at this point we can’t drown in our sorrows. We have to move on to the next game. We’ll see them again.”

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

Texas got some of its worst news of the season on Thursday when it found out senior forward Audrey-Ann Caron-Goudreau had been ruled out indefinitely because of a left wrist injury she sustained in the Longhorns’ win over Kansas State on Feb. 10.

But the No. 6 Longhorns responded with a collective beatdown on Saturday afternoon in Stillwater, defeating No. 21 Oklahoma State, 77-62, in a game in which every player saw time on the court. Texas has now won seven games in a row.

Joyner Holmes, Caron-Goudreau’s replacement, made her presence known in the opening quarter. The 6-foot-3-inch sophomore forward took advantage of what was only her second start of the season, racking up an early 6 points, four rebounds and a block as the Longhorns claimed a 21-14 lead with 1:40 left to go.

But Oklahoma State responded, turning to freshman guard Braxtin Miller for a spark. Miller torched the Longhorns for 23 points when the two teams previously met on Jan. 3, and Saturday was no different.

Miller found that same swagger in the opening quarter, scoring 4 points as part of Oklahoma State’s 6-0 run to end the quarter. And with that, a quarter in which Texas dominated the Cowgirls, the Longhorns clung to a 1-point advantage, 21-20.

Texas upped the intensity in the second quarter, forcing five Oklahoma State turnovers and holding the Cowgirls to just 5-for-15 shooting.

This time, it was senior guard Brooke McCarty who led the charge on the offensive end, scoring 7 points in the quarter as the Longhorns opened up a 38-30 lead heading into halftime.

“We talked a little bit earlier this week about how if you get an open shot, you shoot,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said. “Especially with Brooke. She has a green light, so she needed to look more for her shot, and she did that today.”

Everything went wrong for Oklahoma State in the third quarter as Texas began to pull away. The Longhorns kicked off the second half with a crushing blow, jumping out to an 8-0 run in the first three minutes.

It was Jatarie White’s turn this time around. The junior forward fueled the run, scoring 6 points and forcing the Cowgirls into an early timeout.

Things didn’t get any easier for Oklahoma State, as the team shot a woeful 4-for-15 from the field. It was a group effort on the other side of the court, as six different Longhorn players scored in the quarter.

Senior guard Ariel Atkins delivered the dagger to end the period, sinking a midrange jumper at the buzzer to give Texas a commanding 55-41 lead.

Texas went into cruise control in the fourth quarter, slowing the pace en route to the 15-point victory.

The senior backcourt duo of McCarty and Atkins shined in the win. McCarty finished the outing with a team-high 17 points and six assists, while Atkins totaled 15 points and four rebounds.

“I think it’s a combination of them being seniors and having played at this level for almost four years now,” Aston said. “It’s a testament to their hard work. They’re always in the gym, and it’s paying off for them.”

The victory is one of Texas’ most impressive wins on the season, as four different Longhorns scored in double digits — a sign of the team’s depth in the aftermath of Caron-Goudreau’s injury.

“Yesterday in practice, Coach just told us to be ready when our number gets called,” said junior forward Jordan Hosey, one of the team’s biggest boosts off the bench. “We knew we’d need the whole team (today), so when our number got called, we just did what we could do.”

Texas (22–4, 13–2 Big 12) now shifts its focus to a home game against No. 3 Baylor on Monday night. The Bears handed the Longhorns their worst loss of the season on Jan. 25 in Waco, 81-56. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Frank Erwin Center.

Photo Credit: Katie Bauer | Daily Texan Staff

Even as No. 6 Texas began to pull away during a 73-55 victory at the WVU Coliseum on Monday night, the Mountaineers refused to slow down.

After surrendering seven unanswered Texas points to start the game, West Virginia freshman guard Ashley Jones and senior forward Teana Muldrow hit back-to-back threes to cut the deficit down to one point with 6:33 left in the first quarter.

The Mountaineers started to fly up and down the floor and whip the ball all over the court. It was similar to the Longhorns’ style of play — tight defense leading to fast breaks and easy transition points.

West Virginia’s resilience stunned Texas at first. The Longhorns weren’t used to their opponents keeping up with them, but by the end of the first quarter, Texas trailed 19-18.

“It was an interesting game,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said. “As physical as we both play defense, nobody shot free throws hardly. That’s usually interesting between us and West Virginia. It’s usually a blood bath.”

Aston countered by shifting Texas’ offensive focus inside. The Longhorns ran more plays through their posts and crashed the offensive boards to claim a 37-26 lead heading into the half.

“I think the first half, there was a lot of attention paid to our guards,” Aston said. “I told them at halftime that we only had four offensive rebounds, and I think that (senior forward) Audrey(-Ann Caron-Goudreau) had all of them. So, that must have motivated (junior forward) Jatarie (White).”

Midway through the third quarter, junior guard Lashann Higgs nuzzled past her defender and stormed toward the rim. White’s defender slid to cut her off. Higgs took an extra dribble, then wrapped around the help defense to find White wide open. White scored despite being fouled and converted the and-one free throw.

White asserted herself in the third quarter, erupting for nine points and four rebounds.

But West Virginia kept shooting.

The Mountaineers made 50 percent of their outside shots and finished the night making more threes than two-pointers. The hot shooting allowed them to stay within arm’s reach of the lead for the majority of the game. Entering the fourth quarter, West Virginia trailed by just 10 points.

“We let them shoot threes all night long,” Aston said. “But that’s what they do — they do it really well. We’ll go back and look at film and see where we could’ve been a little bit better in that area because obviously 10 threes is too many.”

The Longhorns leaned on their seniors to hold West Virginia off.

Senior guard Ariel Atkins had just four points through the first three quarters. Late in the fourth, she tipped a pass from Muldrow and hustled to keep the ball inbounds. She reached it just before stepping on the sideline, twirled and found fellow senior guard Brooke McCarty streaking up the floor for the easy finish.

The pair closed the game out on a 9-0 run, assisting or scoring on every basket.

“I kind of just picked up my energy on defense and started feeding off the energy from my teammates,” Atkins said. “They didn’t get down on me. They kept me energized. They told me to keep playing. They told me to do the best I could on defense, and once I kind of amped up and I looked in their eyes, they kept believing in me, kept the energy up. I didn’t have a choice but to play.”

Atkins finished the game with 17 points, including 13 in the final quarter. White finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Texas (19–4, 10–2 Big 12) has played three games in six days. The Longhorns will get some much-needed rest before hosting Kansas State (12–11, 4–8 Big 12) at the Frank Erwin Center on Saturday. Still, Atkins knows there’s no time to waste.

“There’s work to be done,” Atkins said. “My focus is my team. This is my last year, this is my last chance to really give them what I’ve got. And I want to give everything I have left in my tank to my college career.”

Photo Credit: Katie Bauer | Daily Texan Staff

No. 8 Texas has lost to four different teams this season, but TCU was different.

When TCU sophomore guard Kianna Ray hit a pair of free throws to take a 79-77 lead over the Longhorns on Jan. 10 in Fort Worth, the Horned Frogs became the first non-ranked team of the year to beat Texas. The loss stung.

“You definitely feel a little more motivated,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said on Saturday. “We wanted to win today.”

Texas got its revenge on Saturday in a 92-65 win over No. 22 TCU at the Frank Erwin Center.

The Longhorns set the tone defensively from the opening possession.

TCU won the tip and gave junior center Jordan Moore control on the first shot of the game. Moore drove into the lane but was met by senior forward Audrey-Ann Caron Goudreau. Moore raised her arms for a layup. Caron-Goudreau did the same to stop it and knocked the ball away.

Junior guard Lashann Higgs missed a jumpshot on the next play, and the Horned Frogs zoomed back down on offense. This time, TCU sophomore forward Adeola Akomolafe took her turn to drive inside. Caron-Goudreau swatted the ball again.

“She helps us a lot,” senior guard Ariel Atkins said. “I think she’s taken it personal that we haven’t particularly guarded posts well in the past. She’s been doing things in the game that haven’t been showing up on the stat sheet … It’s just a credit to her and her attention to detail.”

The Horned Frogs struggled to score for the rest of the first quarter. A pair of free throws from freshman guard Lauren Heard and a layup from junior guard Dakota Vann were the only shots that fell in.

Texas went into the second quarter with a 27-4 lead. TCU had more turnovers — seven — than it did points.

The defensive prowess wasn’t sustainable, even as the Longhorns began utilizing a full-court press. The Horned Frogs scored 20 points in the second quarter, but by then the game had already been decided.

Atkins and fellow senior guard Brooke McCarty led the team with 16 points each. The duo had an answer for every puzzling defender TCU threw their way.

“I had a talk with Coach this week and my teammates this week and it’s just — I’m thinking too much,” McCarty said. “(Today) I think I just fed off of my teammates and just kind of let everything go out the window.”

Caron-Goudreau finished with seven points, four rebounds and a career-high six blocks. The victory proved to the team how dominant Texas can be.

“I thought our team was pretty special today,” Aston said. “Lots of energy, lots of enthusiasm, shared the ball and really seemed somewhat connected. I could nitpick on a few things, but I did think that, for the most part, it was a pretty complete performance for our team.”

The Longhorns will travel to Morgantown, West Virginia, on Monday to take on the Mountaineers. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.