Brooke McCarty

Photo Credit: Brooke Crim | Daily Texan Staff

The No. 9 Longhorns took No. 1 UConn down to the wire on Monday night at the Frank Erwin Center, but Texas couldn't pull off the upset, falling 75-71 to the Huskies. Here are five takeaways from Monday's showdown:

Texas came to play

Effort wasn’t the issue for the Longhorns.

Texas gave the 11,900 fans at the Frank Erwin Center something to cheer for right out of the gate, putting the No. 1 Huskies on notice with a quick 8-2 run to start the game.

The Longhorns made their living from behind the arc, spraying home four of their first eight attempts from three. Senior guard Brooke McCarty led the charge, setting the tone with a pair of early threes that sent the burnt orange faithful into a frenzy.

“I just trusted what the coaches had been telling me,” McCarty said. “It’s gotta go in sometime, so I trusted it.”

Texas also won the battle on the boards, out-rebounding the Huskies 12-7 and claiming an 8-3 advantage in second-chance points.

The Longhorns entered the second quarter with a 24-21 lead over the top team in the nation, becoming the first team to outscore UConn in the opening quarter all season.

UConn feasts off Texas’ turnovers in the second quarter

After committing just one turnover in the first quarter, the Longhorns lost focus, turning the ball over five times in the second.

Four different Texas players turned the ball over, giving life to a UConn squad that had been trailing since it took a 2-0 lead with 9:37 left in the first quarter.

The Huskies took advantage of the mistakes, converting them into six easy points and stringing together a 10-1 run to take a 39-38 lead at the half.

Texas’ 3-point woes prove costly in the third quarter

UConn hit its stride in the third quarter, clamping down on a Texas offense that wreaked havoc in the first half.

The Huskies focused on the leader of the Longhorn attack, senior guard Ariel Atkins, who had torched UConn with a couple threes in the first two quarters.

Atkins couldn’t get it going from deep in the third, going 0-3 as the Huskies began to build some separation. The Duncanville native didn’t receive any help either as the Longhorns shot a collective 0-5 from long distance.

“There were some segments where we took some ill-advised shots,” head coach Karen Aston said. “We’ll look back on (those shots) and wish we would’ve valued that possession a little bit more.”

Meanwhile, the Huskies put up 22 points in the third quarter, inflating their lead to 61-55 as the two teams entered the fourth quarter.

UConn wins at the free throw line

In a game that could’ve been decided by a coin flip, free throws proved to be the saving grace for the Huskies.

UConn shot 17-19 from the charity stripe on the night, including a pair of free throws by sophomore guard Crystal Dangerfield that iced the game with eight seconds left.

The Longhorns had their chances to pull off the upset down the stretch, but the team couldn’t capitalize at the free throw line. Texas shot 1-4 from the line, including a pair of misses by Atkins that would’ve cut the lead to one with 2:42 left in the game.

Texas shot just 8-14 from the charity stripe on the night.

Longhorns make statement in nail-biting loss

The loss marks the Longhorns’ second loss in the past three games, but Texas can hold its head high knowing it created something to build on as the second half of the season unfolds.

The Longhorns won the turnover battle, forcing UConn to 13 turnovers compared to their nine. Texas also utilized its size advantage, out-rebounding the Huskies 36-30 and cashing in on 16 second-chance points.

The four-point nail-biter also marks UConn’s closest game of the season, exposing holes in the armor of the nation’s prized juggernaut.

“Tonight showed who we are and who we can be,” McCarty said. “Every time you lose, it stings you a little bit, but this was a good growing point.”

Photo Credit: Angel Ulloa | Daily Texan Staff

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.

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.

Junior guard Empress Davenport stuffed the stat sheet in the win over California. Davenport finished with 11 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

With four players scoring double digits and the Longhorns shooting nearly 48 percent all game, No. 5-seeded Texas hung on in the final minutes to defeat No. 4 seed California, 73–70, on Sunday.

Texas stuck with its experienced lineup in its second-round game in the NCAA Tournament in Berkeley, California. 

Similar to its first round matchup against Western Kentucky, Texas struggled with turnovers early. The Longhorns’ 11 first-half turnovers kept the game close throughout the first half.

Tied at 27 at the break, Texas came out of halftime on a 6–0 run. It led by as many as 12 points in the second half, but California began to cut into its deficit, scoring key field goals and making seven 3-pointers.

“[When we have trouble], we talk about attacking the basket, not standing around the 3-point line and not turning the ball over,” junior guard Empress Davenport said. “That is just a conversation we have between the guards.” 

The team eventually started to limit its turnovers, only giving up the ball three times in the final 20 minutes. The Longhorns shot 50 percent in the final stanza and made 10-of-12 free- throw attempts to capture the victory.

Freshman guard Brooke McCarty played only 17 minutes but hit crucial late free throws, just as she did in the first-round game, to seal the win for Texas. Outside of her strong performance from the charity stripe, McCarty shot 5-of-7 from the field and combined for 16 points with two steals.

Junior center Imani McGee-Stafford, who has struggled this season due to injuries, captured her second consecutive double-double performance in this year’s NCAA Tournament with 20 points and 11 boards. After limited playing time during the regular season, she has been a focal point of Texas’ postseason play. 

“This has been a really long season,” McGee-Stafford said. “Coach has brought me along slow and make sure I got my legs back. All of [my] teammates have been really helpful, waiting for me to get everything back and trusting me when I was ready.” 

With a slew of injuries and adversities this season, head coach Karen Aston focused on using her veteran players to help the Longhorns make a deep postseason run in the weeks leading up to the tournament. 

“Because we have experience, we know what to expect when the NCAA Tournament comes,” Davenport said when the seeds were announced. “I think it’s just a feel for the game and when the freshmen and sophomores see us on the court, it just makes them more comfortable.” 

The Longhorns now advance to their first Sweet 16 appearance since the 2003-2004 season, when current Longhorns head coach Karen Aston was then an assistant coach for the team. They play either top-seeded UConn or No. 8 Rutgers on Saturday in Albany, New York. 

Junior center Imani McGee-Stafford lays the ball up against Oklahoma. McGee-Stafford finished with 11 points and 10 boards as Texas advances to the Big 12 tournament conference finals.
Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Texas has become quite familiar with deficits this season. But down by 6 points late in the second half Friday, Texas started to streak.

With the game tied with less than 20 seconds to go, a Lady Toppers foul sent freshman guard Brooke McCarty to the charity stripe, where she sank both free throws to help Texas hang on to a 66-64 victory over Western Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

“I told our players after the game that this was obviously a hard-fought win, and it was nothing to be ashamed of that it went to the wire because I was so impressed by [Western Kentucky] … ,” head coach Karen Aston said. “I knew they would present problems for us from a matchup perspective.”

The game featured 10 lead changes, with each team leading for about 18 minutes each. Texas’s defense held the Lady Toppers to 29 percent shooting in the opening period, but 13 first-half turnovers by the Longhorns kept the game close early.

“We stopped turning the ball over in the second half and started attacking and that was really ultimately the difference, Aston said. “I am proud of our players for holding in there, and it wasn't easy with first-game jitters. I thought we really held in there.”

Junior center Imani McGee-Stafford, who started against Western Kentucky, picked up a double-double, scoring a season-high 24 points and grabbing 15 boards. She said the game scenario seemed all too familiar.

“We were in the huddle in the last four minutes, and I just kept thinking to myself, ‘We've been here before. We've been here before. We've come back from 6 or 8 points with just a little bit of time left,’” McGee-Stafford said. “So I think it's good knowing that we are able to come back, and we have the experience from games earlier in the season.”

Texas has come from behind to win in multiple games this season. Aston's lineup change gave the Longhorns NCAA tournament experience, as Friday’s starting five was the 12th different lineup in 33 games this season.

“I think because of the experience we have, we know how hard we have to push because we have lost games like this,” McCarty said. “So we just thought back to those games every time we were in the huddle, and we just pushed and pushed and pushed, and we came out with the win.”

The first-round win gives the Longhorns their 23rd victory of the season, the team’s most since the 2003-2004 season.

“I think getting this win under our belt is a great confidence booster for this team, and obviously, every game we can play is a positive for this program,” Aston said.

The Longhorns look to continue their momentum into the second round, as they face No. 4 California at 8 p.m. Sunday on ESPN2. The winner moves on to the Sweet 16.

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.

No. 10 Texas (3-0, 2-0 away) continued its winning streak with a third-consecutive win of the season at UCLA.

Scoring 37 points in the first half and 38 in the second, the Longhorns concluded their two-game California road trip in the Pauley Pavilion on Sunday with a 75-65 win against the Bruins.

The last time the Longhorns beat UCLA was on Nov. 25, 2003. UCLA is 0-3 after losing to Texas, but it came into the season with the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.

Freshman guard Brooke McCarty led the Longhorns with 20 points in the game. McCarty, Texas’ shortest player at 5 feet 4 inches, made five 3-pointers for Texas.

“Coach just told me when I’m open, shoot the ball,” McCarty said. “At first I wasn’t, but then she got on to me, so I started shooting and got more comfortable as the game went on.”

The Longhorns finished with seven steals and 22 points off turnovers.

Freshman guard Ariel Atkins contributed 14 points to help Texas pull away with an early lead in the second half. Texas posted its largest lead at 5:13 in the second half with 14 points.

Sophomore center Kelsey Lang finished with 12 points and senior forward Nneka Enemkpali had 10.

Sunday’s contest brought the all-time series to 6-5, in the Bruins’ favor.

Texas will host UT-Pan American at home Wednesday.