Joyner Holmes

Photo Credit: Anthony Mireles | Daily Texan Staff

Lashann Higgs had one less thing to worry about.

In No. 8 Texas’ past two games against No. 2 Baylor, Higgs was assigned to Baylor senior guard Kristy Wallace on defense. It didn’t go well for Higgs.

Wallace used her turbocharged first step to blitz past the Longhorns’ defensive stopper nearly every other possession. Wallace put up 27 and 23 points, respectively, en route to a pair of Baylor victories.

“The two previous games that we’ve played, particularly the first one against Baylor, I thought we were not as competitive as we needed to be,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said.

But on Monday night in Oklahoma City, Wallace didn’t step on the floor in Texas’ 77-69 loss to the Bears in the Big 12 championship game. Wallace suffered a torn ACL in her right knee on Baylor’s senior night against West Virginia on Feb. 26 and was ruled out for the season.

With Wallace out, Higgs had less responsibility for Texas on the defensive end. She turned her attention to the opposite end of the floor. 

Higgs had a penchant to score in threes. She kicked her evening off by draining a 3-pointer from the left corner. She followed it up by splitting a pair of Baylor defenders, drawing a foul from Baylor sophomore guard Juicy Landrum, scooping in a layup and converting the and-one free throw. 

By the end of the first quarter, Higgs had 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting.

Her offensive punch bookended multiple runs for Texas. The Longhorns hit a rough patch,  making just 1-of-8 shots. Higgs zipped to the hoop late in the shot clock and rose for a layup, but she was met by Baylor junior center Kalani Brown.

The ball rimmed out, but Higgs secured the offensive rebound and went straight back up. She drew a foul and hit a pair of free throws to cut the Bears’ lead to three points.

Later in the fourth, Higgs swiped the ball from Landrum at half court and sprinted to the basket. Landrum recovered just in time to swat the ball away on the fast break. Higgs kept her cool. She recovered the offensive board and found senior guard Brooke McCarty on the right side of the lane for the easy finish. 

Higgs’ assist was part of a 9-0 run for Texas that tied the game up at 55 points apiece with 7:13 remaining. Everything unraveled from there.

The Bears eventually took back the lead. Higgs drove down the baseline again with 1:42 left on the clock and the Longhorns down two. She floated the ball a step outside the lane, wary of Baylor sophomore forward Lauren Cox, who had seven blocks.

The ball ricocheted off the rim and into Cox’s hands. Sophomore forward Joyner Holmes tried swiping it back but was called for a loose ball foul, sending Baylor into the bonus. The call unnerved Aston. She let the officials know it and picked up a technical foul.

Cox hit all four of the ensuing free throws.

“I had a poorly, poorly, poorly timed technical that I take full responsibility for,” Aston said. “Definitely my fault on that one.”

“We still felt like we had a chance (to win),” senior guard Ariel Atkins said.

They didn’t. Though Texas fought hard until the end, Baylor closed the game out and won its eighth Big 12 championship in nine years. Higgs finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and three assists in a game that saw 14 lead changes.

Despite the loss, the Longhorns still believe they’re talented enough to beat any team in the country. The next loss will be the last in the NCAA Tournament.

“I mean, this loss is disappointing,” McCarty said. “But, we have a bigger picture to look forward to.”

The Longhorns (26–6, 15–3 Big 12) will find out their seeding and first opponent during the NCAA Selection Show on March 12 at 6 p.m.

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: Jessica Joseph | Daily Texan Staff

Jatarie White went exploring.

The junior center typically roams the paint, scavenging inside for easy buckets no more than a step or two away from the rim. Texas Tech made them hard to come by early in No. 6 Texas’ 87-72 win over the Red Raiders on Wednesday night at the Frank Erwin Center.

Sophomore forward Joyner Holmes started in place of senior forward Audrey-Ann Caron-Goudreau, who was out with a bruised left wrist. Holmes doesn’t have the same outside touch as her injured counterpart.

White tried to share the interior with Holmes. But after fighting through double teams on her first two makes, White knew she needed to venture into mid-range territory.

With 4:45 remaining in the first quarter, White received a bounce pass from senior guard Ariel Atkins just above the free throw line and rose for a jumper. The ball rolled around, hung on the front of the rim for an eternity, then fell in. She hit another jumper from the left elbow, going 4-for-4 in the first quarter and scoring eight of Texas’ first 10 points. 

“I’ve been getting in the gym a little bit more with Coach Tina (Thompson) and working on my shooting form,” White said. “Also, noticing Coach (Aston) telling us that they were kind of closing in on the paint, flashing into the high post is just where I wanted to find the open space.”

The Longhorns still struggled. Texas couldn’t find the usual cracks in the defense without Caron-Goudreau’s floor spacing. The Red Raiders ended the quarter leading 19-16.

Texas head coach Karen Aston shook things up in the second quarter. She started sophomore wing Jada Underwood at the power forward spot to open things up on offense. It worked — but at a cost.

On Texas’ first possession, senior guard Brooke McCarty drove inside for an and-one layup and made the ensuing free throw. Texas Tech responded on the other end with a layup of its own.

The Red Raiders pummeled the Longhorns in the post. Underwood and Atkins were too small to contain Texas Tech’s 6-foot-4-inch senior center, Jada Terry, or 6-foot-6-inch sophomore center Erin Degrate. Terry and Degrate finished the half combining for 18 points.

“It’s frustrating as a player not being able to — kind of just giving up easy one-foot points,” White said.

Aston turned to 6-foot-3-inch freshman forward Rellah Boothe to plug the hole on defense. She thrived. Boothe was enough of a perimeter threat on offense to keep her defender from sagging off, and she had the size to slow down Texas Tech’s bigs on defense.

Boothe entered the game with 6:24 remaining in the half and Texas clinging to a three-point lead. Four different players scored on an 8-2 Texas run, including Boothe. The freshman came out a few possessions later at the 2:17 mark with the Longhorns leading 41-34. 

“Rellah played some valuable minutes,” Aston said. “When you have a night like tonight where people aren’t clicking as well as they typically do or you need to rest some players sometimes, things like that, that’s what a bench is about. I was very pleased.”

Texas went to a 2-3 zone defense in the second half, fortifying the paint and forcing more turnovers that led to transition baskets. McCarty pilfered the ball on back-to-back plays and racked up six points to cap off a 10-0 run by the Longhorns late in the third quarter. The Red Raiders trailed by double-digits the remainder of the game.

White finished with 11 points and one rebound. McCarty tallied 13 points, one rebound and one assist.

The Longhorns (21–4, 12–2 Big 12) will hit the road to take on No. 21 Oklahoma State in Stillwater on Saturday. Though Texas won its previous matchup with Oklahoma State at home by five points, White said the team can’t afford to lose its focus.

“I try not to think about the last game,” White said. “I try to think about what that team does and where they’re successful … Kind of knowing what they do already and not really focusing on how many points they score.”

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.”