Ariel Atkins

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

Joyner Holmes was frustrated.

The sophomore forward spent nearly half the season serving a semester-long suspension in the fall. When she returned, she was relegated to the bench despite starting in all but two games last season. Through five games this year, she averaged just 7.4 minutes.

And, to top it off, No. 7 Texas lost to unranked TCU on Wednesday night. Holmes played 10 minutes and turned the ball over three times.

“I think if anybody was in my position, at this point, I’d think you’d have some frustration,” Holmes said. “Just waking up knowing that I’m as good as the players that are playing and I just want to be able to contribute in any way I can.”

Prior to the Longhorns’ 79-62 win over Kansas at the Frank Erwin Center on Saturday, head coach Karen Aston made sure to go over film with her team and encouraged the players to sharpen their attention to detail. Holmes took the advice to heart. Aston noticed.

“She kind of had a look like ‘I know I’ve got to start valuing my reps so that I can get myself back in game mode,” Aston said. “And I thought that she had her best practice (Friday).”

Aston rewarded Holmes’ work ethic with more opportunities in Texas’ victory over Kansas on Saturday.

Senior forward Audrey-Ann Caron-Goudreau was held out of the game with a quad contusion suffered against the Horned Frogs. Sophomore guard Alecia Sutton took Caron-Goudreau’s place in the starting lineup, but Holmes and senior guard Ariel Atkins took most of the minutes at power forward.

Holmes seemed uncomfortable at first. She finished the first half with two points on 1-of-5 shooting, two rebounds and two turnovers. The Longhorns were off to a slow start again, trailing 31-29.

Atkins was frustrated, too. She had four steals and two blocks by halftime, but Texas still couldn’t overtake the lead from the Jayhawks. She wasn’t sure what else she could do, so she consulted with her team.

“I’m no good to my team when I’m overhyped or trying to do too much,” Atkins said. “So, I talked to my coaches, even some of my teammates, and they just told me to calm down and play. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do.”

Atkins racked up 10 points and four rebounds in the third quarter, sparking a 16-4 run that gave Texas a nine-point lead. Holmes followed Atkins’ example.

The sophomore started crashing the boards and found chemistry sharing the paint with junior center Jatarie White. Holmes grabbed six offensive rebounds and dished out two assists on post feeds to White.

“(Holmes is) such a difficult matchup, not only for us but for a lot of teams in the country,” Kansas head coach Brandon Schneider said. “There’s very few players that have her size, strength and athleticism. And she dominated the glass in the second half.”

Atkins finished the game with 22 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three blocks and a career-high six steals. Holmes finished with season-highs of 23 minutes, 11 points, nine rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block.

The Longhorns (14-2, 5-1 Big 12) will play host to No. 1 UConn (15-0, 5-0 American) on Monday at 6 p.m. Atkins knows it will take similar performances from her team to pull out the win.

“They’re a very good basketball team, we’re a good basketball team,” Atkins said. “These are the games that you want to come to Texas to play. But, when the ball tips, it’s time to play basketball.”

Photo Credit: Angel Ulloa | Daily Texan Staff

The Horned Frogs had completely lost track of time.

After slowing the pace and dribbling around the top of the arc late in the third quarter, no player recognized that the shot clock was down to five seconds. The ball casually swung around, ultimately landing in the hands of TCU sophomore forward Adeola Akomolafe.

With just two seconds left on the shot clock, Akomolafe saw the time and quickly launched what was only her second 3-point attempt of the season.

Texas head coach Karen Aston watched as the ball sailed and hit its mark, finding the bottom of the net as the shot clock expired with 1:11 left in the quarter. It was that kind of night for Texas.

The Longhorns suffered their second loss of the season on Wednesday night in Fort Worth, falling to TCU, 79-77.

After entering the second quarter with a comfortable 22-14 lead, Texas was ambushed by a 13-1 TCU run. In just four minutes, the Longhorns found themselves down 27-23.

It got worse.

The Horned Frogs piled it on, lighting up the Longhorns for 26 points in the second quarter and entering the half with a 40-31 lead.

Texas came out with a sense of desperation to start the third quarter, stifling TCU’s offense with a half-court press.

The Longhorns also found their range as senior forward Audrey-Ann Caron-Goudreau drained a three to cap off an 11-2 run and tie the score at 42 with 8:01 left in the quarter. But TCU kept its cool, regaining the lead and entering the fourth quarter up 60-57.

The final quarter could only be described as madness. Both teams battled, resulting in a 71-71 standstill with 1:17 left to go.

After getting fouled while diving for a loose ball, sophomore guard Alecia Sutton went to the free throw line. Sutton had only shot 40 percent from the line on the season, but she calmly sank both free throws to give Texas a 73-71 lead. TCU senior guard Toree Thompson answered on the following play, creating separation from senior guard Brooke McCarty and draining a step-back three with 53 seconds left.

With the pressure now on Texas, senior guard Ariel Atkins elevated from mid-range, nailing the jumper to put the Longhorns back on top, 75-74, with 39 seconds left.

Once again TCU responded with a three, and once again Atkins came through with a mid-range bucket, this time to tie the score at 77 with 16.5 seconds.

After a pair of free throws by the Horned Frogs, Texas found itself down two with six seconds left. A broken play led to a desperation three at the buzzer by junior guard Lashann Higgs that failed to even hit the rim. It was over.

Atkins finished with a game-high 25 points to go along with six rebounds. Higgs totaled 18 points on the night.

The loss marks the first conference loss of the season for Texas (13-2, 4-1 Big 12). The Longhorns look to gain momentum when they host Kansas at 1 p.m. on Saturday before No. 1 Connecticut travels to Austin for a heavily anticipated matchup Monday night.

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

When junior guard Lashann Higgs went to the bench with 3:41 left in the first quarter, she took all of Texas’ offense with her.

Early in their 75-64 win over Kansas State at the Bramlage Coliseum on Sunday, the No. 8 Longhorns struggled against the Wildcats’ zone defense. Their threes weren’t falling, they couldn’t find a good look inside and there weren’t many chances in transition.

Texas started the game missing its first seven shots from the field, turning the ball over three times during that stretch. Higgs finally broke the lid on the basket, hitting a midrange jumper with 5:26 on the clock.

Head coach Karen Aston needed Higgs to keep up her hot start for the rest of the game and subbed in sophomore guard Alecia Sutton to give Higgs a breather. At the time, the Longhorns trailed 11-6. Higgs had all six of Texas’ points. She entered back into the game just before the end of the first quarter with the Longhorns still down, 15-12.

The second quarter was more of the same from Texas. Junior transfer center Jatarie White and sophomore forward Joyner Holmes both got into foul trouble, picking up two each by the 8:44 mark. Senior guard Brooke McCarty drained a three off an assist from Higgs at 7:14 to cut Kansas State’s lead to two points, but wouldn’t score again until the fourth quarter.

Halfway through the second, Higgs had had enough. She picked off a pass from Wildcat sophomore forward Peyton Williams and cashed in an easy layup on the fast break. Kansas State scored on the next play and Higgs returned the favor by splashing a trey, tying the game, 22-22.

The Longhorns turned the ball over on their next two possessions and Wildcat freshman guard Kayla Goth made a layup to push Kansas State in front. Texas missed its next shot, but senior wing Ariel Atkins stole the ball back and found Higgs in transition to tie the game again.

The Wildcats missed a three on the next play, and McCarty zoomed to the other end and drove into the paint. McCarty’s layup rimmed out, but senior forward Audrey-Ann Caron-Goudreau grabbed the offensive board and found Higgs open on the right wing. Higgs swished the triple to give the Longhorns their first lead of the game, 27-24.

In the second half, Texas cracked the code on Kansas State’s zone. The Longhorns started the third quarter on a 13-4 run fueled by Atkins and White. The Wildcats called timeout with 6:17 remaining and Texas up 47-30. The Longhorns never let the lead dip back below double digits.

Higgs finished the game 26 points, including 16 in the first half. She showed the same prowess on the defensive end, racking up three steals and guarding Goth for most of the game.

Goth leads her team in points, averaging 16.7 per game, and leads the Big 12 with 6.3 assists per game. She finished the day with 17 points and five assists, but also committed two turnovers and shot just 6-of-18 from the floor.

Atkins, White and Caron-Goudreau combined for 31 points, and Caron-Goudreau also earned her first career double-double with 10 rebounds.

The victory puts Texas at 13-1 on the season and 4-0 in the Big 12. The Longhorns face TCU on Wednesday in Fort Worth with tip-off set for 8 p.m.

Associate athletic trainer Lisa Stalans has led the team through a challenging season, including the loss of senior forward Nneka Enemkpali.
Photo Credit: Carlo Nasisse | Daily Texan Staff

In late January, against a highly ranked Baylor team, senior forward Nneka Enemkpali drove to the basket and jumped near the hoop for an offensive rebound. On her way back down, she fell awkwardly, collapsing in excruciating pain as she suffered a serious knee injury. Immediately, associate athletic trainer Lisa Stalans rushed to her on the court.

What came next was the hardest part.

Soon, Stalans had the task of telling Enemkpali her college basketball career was over. 

“It was heartbreaking for me to say that,” Stalans said. 

It was something Stalans had done before and will most likely do again in the future. As an athletic trainer for the women’s basketball team, Stalans is in charge of the health and rehabilitation of the athletes. She evaluates them, tends to them and even delivers heartbreaking news — like she had to do with Enemkpali.

“It’s part of my job,” Stalans said. “I try to keep them calm and say, ‘You know, we’ll see what happens.’ It’s been stressful. When an athlete gets hurt, your biggest thing is getting them back on the court as soon as possible, but they just can’t go out there when they’re 50 percent.”

However, Stalans’ job also gives her the opportunity to deliver the good news when an athlete can return. 

In December, freshman guard Ariel Atkins was out indefinitely after an ankle injury. But on Jan. 16, Stalans announced Atkins could return to the court. This week, Atkins won the Phillips 66 Big 12 Freshman of the Week honor for a third time this season. Stalans said it’s those moments when the athletes’ hard work in rehabilitation pays off that make her love her job. 

“I try to get them back better than they were before the injury,” Stalans said. “That is my challenge to myself — to make an athlete better than they were.”

Currently in her 14th season at Texas, Stalans has been with the women’s basketball team since 2009, longer than current head coach Karen Aston. Before that, Stalans spent nine years with the Texas soccer and women’s tennis teams after she arrived in Austin in 2000.

Texas has kept Stalans busy this season. Nine longhorns have missed at least one game because of injuries. But, fortunately for Texas, the injuries didn’t happen all at once. 

“I do feel like one got hurt, and then I get that person back, and then I’d lose another one the next week,” Stalans said.

Her main concern is getting her athletes ready for their next step, which in most cases is just getting ready for the next game.

“We got back at three this morning from West Virginia, so today was all about ice baths,” Stalans said. “I tell them to think of it like a spa.”

Junior guard Brady Sanders drives past a Kansas State defender. Sanders had a career night in which she scored 18 points and made four 3-pointers
Photo Credit: Michael Baez | Daily Texan Staff

Blow out!

The Longhorns (17–8, 6–8 Big 12) won their second consecutive game Wednesday night as they beat Kansas State (15–10, 5–9 Big 12), 76–58, thanks to a career night from junior guard Brady Sanders and a strong team shooting performance.

Sanders’ 18 points and four 3-pointers were both career highs, and Texas collectively found its pace by not rushing shots and playing better defense.

“I thought Brady got us off to a terrific start and really calmed our team,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said. “Then we settled in and played a nice game.”

Wednesday marked the first time Texas has won consecutive games since emerging victorious in its first two conference games.

“There were a lot of great decisions made,” Aston said. “Basically, I thought everyone who went into the game contributed something, so, overall, it was a really good team performance.”

The Kansas State 2-3 defense forced errant shots from Texas, as the Longhorns missed their first seven field goals. But the buckets started to fall when Sanders hit the team’s first shot.

“Really my only focus was getting the win,” Sanders said. “And it just so happened that my shots fell tonight, and my teammates put me in a good position to score.”

Freshman guard Ariel Atkins notched her fifth conference game in double figures with 11 points Wednesday. Atkins said the way Sanders played tonight gave the whole team a boost.

“When she’s out there smiling and laughing on the court, it gives us the confidence to be like, ‘Oh, okay, she’s having a good time, so we can too,’” Atkins said.

With injuries striking the team hard, Aston said the Longhorns continued to find ways to fit into unfamiliar roles.

“Their roles changed so much,” Aston said. “But I do think we’ve had some constancy with what we’re asking each person to do, so I think that gives them some comfort … and allowed them to settle in. I think they’re having some fun now, which is good to see.”

Sophomore center Kelsey Lang, who didn’t score her first point until early in the second half, ended the game with 9 points and four boards, while junior center Imani McGee-Stafford had 11 points and grabbed five rebounds. 

Texas won the turnover battle against a Kansas State team that ranks second in the conference with 9.1 steals per game. The Longhorns caused 19 turnovers, eight of which were steals. 

Texas sits three games away from a 20-win season, one of the early goals for the team, according to Aston. With four regular season games remaining, the Longhorns look to continue their winning streak with a game against Texas Tech on Saturday.

“I do think that [the team] is confident, but it’s one game at a time,” Aston said. “We worried about tonight, and tomorrow we’ll wake up and start figuring out how to win in Lubbock. We don’t need to look past that at all.”

With a slew of absences on the court, head coach Karen Aston has been forced to switch things up. 

Freshman guards Brooke McCarty and Ariel Atkins have been thrust into starting roles. Even freshman forward Diani Akigbogun, who hadn’t seen the court since last semester, played in the latest game.

Despite the pressure put on the two freshman guards to be major contributors, they give the Longhorns a big boost.

Atkins is averaging 11.4 points per game over the last five, while playing more than 30 minutes a game. McCarty was just named Big 12 Freshman of the Week after averaging 13.5 points and 3.5 assists during the past week.

“You could tell [McCarty] was really in control of the she moved her body,” Aston said. 

Atkins and McCarty have started the past seven games and hope to build on their first conference road win where the Longhorns went up to Kansas to get. While in Lawrence, Kansas, the Longhorns also scored their most points since Jan. 19.

“[McCarty] played an energetic game and we need more of that,” Aston said after the last game. “She wasn’t afraid to take the shots.”

Falling in their first six road conference games, the Longhorns (16–8, 5–8 Big 12) finally broke through at Kansas with a 74–63 victory to end the road skid as well as a four-game losing streak. Four players scored in the double digits, including McCarty and Atkins.

“I thought we had so many players step up,” Aston said after the win Saturday night against the Jayhawks.

The Longhorns look to carry that momentum and start a winning streak of their own when they host Kansas State at the Frank Erwin Center at 7 p.m.

Kansas State (15–9, 5–8 Big 12) has other ideas, though, as it is searching for its first season sweep against Texas since 2012. In the first matchup between the two, Kansas State rallied from a halftime deficit to win by 9 points. During the game, sophomore forward Nekia Jones went down with a left knee injury that has her out indefinitely. 

However, this time around, Kansas State will be on Texas’ court, giving the Longhorns a distinct advantage. In the Frank Erwin Center, dating back to last year, Texas is 26–4 and holds a +18.4 scoring margin.

Trying to take advantage of Texas’ young backcourt, Kansas State will pressure the Texas guards and try to force them into mistakes. Kansas State currently has a Big 12-leading 275 steals this season. Turnovers haven’t been Texas’ problem this season, though, as it is averaging its lowest amount of turnovers per game (16.2) in the last five seasons.

The Wildcats head into Austin fresh off an overtime loss to Texas Tech on Sunday. 

The game will be aired on the Longhorn Network.

Photo Credit: Ellyn Snider | Daily Texan Staff

Boasting four Longhorns with double-digit figures, Texas collected its first conference road victory against Kansas, 74–63, on Saturday.

Texas played calmly in the first half, and its defense locked down early, holding the Jayhawks to 28 percent shooting. Freshman guard Ariel Atkins scored 15 points in the first half — more than half of Texas’ points in the period — but the Longhorns’ abysmal shooting and 10 turnovers gave them only a 1-point lead at halftime. 

Texas improved its perimeter shooting from 33 percent in the first 20 minutes to 67 percent in the second half. Although Kansas shaved the deficit to 3 points midway through the second half, Texas showed resilience and continued to stay aggressive. Drawing fouls often, the Longhorns attempted 30 free throws and shot 73 percent from the charity stripe.

“They never got frustrated when Kansas made a run,” head coach Karen Aston said. “They didn’t get frustrated when they made mistakes. They stayed very calm, and I thought we executed some things really well.”

The Longhorns (16–8, 5–8 Big 12) received contributions from all their healthy players, including bench players, in the full-team effort. Sophomore guard Brianna Taylor, who started the game, scored 13 of her 15 points in the second half, while junior center Imani McGee-Stafford came off the bench to record her third double-double with 12 points and 16 rebounds.

“Imani had some great minutes off the bench, and Taylor was really solid,” Aston said. “I thought Ariel did a great job of playing the game. Our guards made better decisions off the [Kansas] zone [defense].”

Texas dominated the Jayhawks on the boards, outrebounding them, 50–27, including 18 offensive rebounds, which led to 17 second-chance points. Texas is now 15–2 when it scores more than 60 points but is 1–6 when scoring less than 60 points.

“Obviously we’ve handled some adversity, and sometimes it’s been good and sometimes not,” Aston said. “I’m really pleased with the team.”

The Longhorns look to continue their momentum at home Wednesday against Kansas State.

Freshman guard Ariel Atkins dominated the game for the Longhorns with 21 points in the 84-81 double overtime win Thursday night.
Photo Credit: Ellyn Snider | Daily Texan Staff

Head coach Karen Aston finally captured a major milestone Thursday night. 

Aston achieved her 150th victory with the No. 14 Longhorns after beating No. 24 Oklahoma in double overtime 84–81. 

“Just really, really proud of our basketball team,” Aston said. “Obviously we’ve been through some adversity the last couple of weeks. We’ve been in a little bit of a lull, but hopefully this will give us some excitement.”

Freshman guard Ariel Atkins started things off by winning the tip and immediately putting two points on the board for Texas. However, the Longhorns found themselves behind for most of the first 30 minutes despite Atkins’ 7 points in the first half. 

At the break, Oklahoma led 33–30, and the Sooners started the second half with 4 straight points that forced Aston to call a timeout. 

That’s when Texas started its comeback. 

Junior guard Brady Sanders knocked down a 3-point shot, closing the gap to within 10. Shortly after, sophomore center Kelsey Lang drew a foul and completed a 3-point play, leaving Texas down by only 4 points. 

The Longhorns held Oklahoma to just 38.5 percent shooting in the second half and out-rebounded the Sooners 31–28. Several players finished with multiple blocks, including junior center Imani McGee-Stafford, whose block late in the game pushed the momentum back to Texas. McGee-Stafford also had her best game since returning from her injury, but the win mattered more to her. 

“I didn’t even know I had a good game until now,” McGee-Stafford said. “I just care about winning. It’s nice to know I am playing better, but I’m just focused on winning.”

Following Sanders’ layup that tied the game, junior guard Empress Davenport made two free throws, giving the Longhorns the lead with 5:30 left. However, Oklahoma would eventually even it up to send the game to overtime.  

One extra period wouldn’t be enough, though, as the game went into a second overtime. With a minute left, Lang scored to give Texas the lead, which it held for the remainder of the game. 

“A lot of players made a lot of plays,” Aston said. “Everybody that came in the game contributed, which is what I said all along from the very beginning this team has to be about.”

Atkins tallied a career-high 21 points, while four other Longhorns shot in the double-digits. 

Texas will take on TCU in Fort Worth on Sunday.

Photo Credit: Lauren Ussery | Daily Texan Staff

Texas women’s basketball played its first competitive minutes of the season in an exhibition match Sunday, defeating the reigning NAIA champion Oklahoma City University Stars, 102-56.

Texas shot 54 percent from the field and never faced a deficit in the game. Head coach Karen Aston said she liked what she saw from the team.

“This is a game that you look to see what kind of effort you’ll bring and where are you at from conditioning,” Aston said. “I thought everyone gave a good effort. We’re in a good place, and we will take this and get better.”

Aston cited the defense as an area needing improvement. Texas struggled to remain disciplined on both sides of the court, finishing with 17 turnovers and 23 fouls.

“We weren’t on the same page,” Aston said. “I think we’ll be fun to watch and be a really good defensive team once we get some things ironed out.”

Freshman guard Ariel Atkins debuted as a starter and led the team with 18 points and three steals. Despite being nervous throughout the game, Atkins said she looks to improve in practice.

“Now that I know what it’s like out here, practice will be more realistic for me,” Atkins said. “In practice, you try to simulate game-like [situations], but you can’t because it’s not the game. But now, from the experience, I kind of feel it now. I won’t get as nervous when the lights come on.”

Freshman guard Brooke McCarty led the team with 24 minutes of play and three 3-pointers. Junior guard Empress Davenport tied for the team lead with five assists.

The Longhorns are still without junior center Imani McGee-Stafford and freshman forward Diani Akigbogun because of injuries. Sophomore center Kelsey Lang started the game at center and snatched 10 rebounds on her way to a double-double with 13 points. 

“With Imani out, [senior forward] Nneka [Enemkpali] obviously can rebound, but she can’t do it by herself, so I really focused on that in the offseason,” Lang said. “I just try to go pursue every ball I can.”

The Longhorns’ regular season tip-off will be against UTSA at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Frank Erwin Center.

Senior forward Nneka Enemkpali, freshman guard Ariel Atkins and junior center Imani McGee-Stafford were named to preseason All-Big 12 honors, which the conference released Wednesday, in women’s basketball. 

Enemkpali was named to the All-12 Big 12 preseason team after landing a spot on the All-Big 12 first team a season ago. Last year, she averaged 12 points and just over eight rebounds per game and totaled 28 assists as a forward. Her 3.1 offensive rebounds per game in her career ranks her third all-time at Texas. 

Atkins was named the preseason Big 12 Freshman of the Year, despite not having stepped onto the court yet for the Longhorns. Atkins was key a part of the Duncanville Panther team that had a 105-game winning streak. In her senior year with Duncanville, Atkins averaged 17.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game and was named the Morgan Wootten Player of the Year.

McGee-Stafford earned a spot as a preseason honorable mention after leading the Longhorns with 2.2 blocks and 12.1 points per game in conference play last year. Heading into her junior campaign, McGee-Stafford sits seventh in Texas history with 147 career blocks.

West Virginia junior guard Bria Holmes was named the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year and Oklahoma sophomore guard Peyton Little was named preseason Newcomer of the Year.

The Longhorns will open up their 2014-2015 season with an exhibition game against Oklahoma City University on Nov. 9.