Lang makes key contributions off the bench

Tyler Horka

Junior center Kelsey Lang jumps off the bench for most games — she’s started in only five contests this season for the No. 6 Longhorns.

But that doesn’t mean her role isn’t significant. 

Lang faces the duty of backing up senior center Imani Boyette, who last week was named the best center in college basketball by two coaches — including her own. 

“Any team is hesitant whenever [Boyette] is in there blocking everyone’s shot,” Lang said. Boyette leads Texas with 3.3 blocks per game. 

But Boyette’s ability to block shots often lands her in foul trouble. When Boyette hits the bench, head coach Karen Aston leans on Lang. 

That exact scenario played out Saturday against Kansas State. Boyette picked up two early fouls and was forced to sit out the remainder of the first half. 

Enter Kelsey Lang. 

She finished the half with eight points on 3-of-5 shooting. Boyette had zero points at the break, but Texas still led by eight. 

“I was really pleased with Kelsey Lang,” Aston said after the 66–51 victory. “I thought she was the difference in the game. She came in and asserted herself in the first half, and she gave us some stability.”

Lang has been stable for the Longhorns all season. She averages 7.1 points and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 55.7 percent from the field. She also shoots 78.6 percent from the free throw line, second best on the team.

Aston often relies on a small lineup filled with the plethora of guards she has on her roster. Nevertheless, Lang and Boyette still play alongside each other when facing frontcourts that rival the Longhorn centers in height. 

Boyette said that she enjoys playing with Lang in those rare occurrences because of the way the two complement each other’s game. 

“Kelsey has more finesse and is a better shooter than I am,” Boyette said. “So if she shoots it and misses, I can get the rebound, and if I am inside banging, then I can kick it out to her.”

Aston said that the two struggled to play alongside one another last year, getting confused when making switches on defense. With Boyette playing in her last season at Texas, she’s making use of the dual center combination while she still can.

“I think both of them have improved on their one-on-one defense,” Aston said. “They have a better mindset about it and moving forward I feel very comfortable with them playing together.”