Freshman Joyner Holmes powered up a layup under the rim but left it short. She corralled the one-handed rebound and put it up again without coming down. Short once more — but again she snatched the rebound before gently laying it in off the glass. Her opponents could only watch.
After dropping four of their last seven games, the No. 3 seeded Longhorns used a dominant 24-4 opening quarter to down Central Arkansas 78-50 at the Frank Erwin Center in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday.
“I thought our team got off to a tremendous start today,” head coach Karen Aston said. “I was very, very pleased with our tempo in the first half. Just our intensity and attention to detail.”
Texas connected on nine of its first 12 shots in the first quarter to jump out to an early twenty-point lead. Junior guard Brooke McCarty, the Big 12 Player of the Year, poured in a team-high 15 points to go along with three assists and five rebounds. Holmes finished one rebound shy of a double-double, adding 12 points and nine boards in a game with zero ties or lead changes.
Suffocating defense and glass management helped Texas as it outrebounded the smaller Sugar Bears by a 55-23 margin. Texas shot 51 percent from the field with 40 points in the paint, while holding Central Arkansas to 31 percent from the floor, including 3-8 from downtown.
“They’re a very good team,” Central Arkansas guard Maggie Proffitt said. “They’re bigger, faster, and stronger, and maybe they were a little more of all of those things than we kind of expected.”
Proffitt put up 17 points in her final collegiate appearance.
No. 14 seeded Central Arkansas entered the first round of the tournament in hope of an upset. The team boasted a 26-4 record, riding the momentum of a 17-game win streak as the season and tournament champions for the Southland Conference.
The Sugar Bears also had the fourth-best scoring defense in the nation during the regular season. Part of their aggressiveness showed as they forced 21 Texas turnovers. But they struggled on both ends of the floor against a bigger opponent.
“We knew we had a size advantage going into the game,” said McCarty. “I think we just stuck to the game plan.”
With the win, Texas improves to 7-3 under Aston in NCAA Tournament play.
The Longhorns now turn their attention to Sunday’s matchup against sixth-seeded North Carolina State. Texas will enjoy home-court advantage once more as it hosts the game at the Erwin Center.