Texas Tech game poses golden opportunity for Joyner Holmes

Justin Martinez

You could hear the impact from the upper deck.

Fans at the Frank Erwin Center held their breaths Saturday night during No. 6 Texas’ game against Kansas State. Senior forward Audrey-Ann Caron-Goudreau had just hit the floor hard while diving for a loose ball with 35 seconds remaining before halftime.

Minutes passed by, as the heart and soul of Texas’ defense lay motionless on the floor, surrounded by Texas medical staff.

Caron-Goudreau eventually managed to walk off the court on her own, and Texas head coach Karen Aston began to survey her bench. With the Longhorns clinging to a 37-29 lead, Aston called on sophomore forward Joyner Holmes, desperate to find a spark.

It paid off.

Holmes dominated and imposed her will in the paint, as Caron-Goudreau cheered from the sideline, her left wrist held up to her chest in a brace for the remainder of the game.

Holmes finished the night with 11 points and seven rebounds. The Longhorns trashed Kansas State for a 76-44 victory.

“I think (the key was) just realizing the matchups,” Holmes said, “Like the mismatches in the paint and realizing that, if you have somebody smaller on you, then I think you can score more with somebody smaller on you inside rather than being outside.”

But the win was dampened by the injury to Caron-Goudreau, who was diagnosed with a left hand/wrist bone contusion. She is currently listed as out for Wednesday night’s home game against Texas Tech.

The senior’s absence will be especially felt on the defensive end should she miss an extended amount of time. Caron-Goudreau is the team’s best lockdown defender, totaling 37 blocks this season — more than the team’s next three block leaders combined.

It’s a difficult role to fill, but Holmes is ready to step up if needed.

“I think I can contribute in any way possible, whatever my team needs,” Holmes said. “All props to Audrey — she’s been doing very well this season on the offensive side and the defensive side. So, just picking up her slack, it’ll be tough. But I think I can fit her role as best as I can.”

For a team that likes to enforce its will in the paint, Holmes’ ability to establish a presence among the Red Raiders’ bigs could prove key. It’s a challenge that her teammates know she can handle.

“I’m very confident in anything that Joyner can do,” senior guard Brooke McCarty said. “I think, like we all say, it comes from yourself. So, when she says she’s confident, we’re all even more confident in her. And she can bring a lot to the team.”

Consistency has been the nagging issue all season for Holmes. The Cedar Hill, Texas, native put the country on notice in her freshman season, averaging 12.1 points per game and a team-high 8.2 rebounds per game en route to becoming the 2017 Big 12 Conference Freshman of the Year.

Holmes’ production and minutes have since gone down during her second season with Texas, after missing the 2017 fall semester because of an undisclosed rule violation.

But the talented forward has shown flashes of her old self in the past three games, as she is averaging 9.3 points and seven rebounds in just 16 minutes per game during that stretch. 

Wednesday’s matchup against a vulnerable Texas Tech squad could be the final stepping stone to Holmes’ return.

“I think that, the last few games, Joyner has started to assert herself and do some of the little things that we need her to do,” Aston said. “But again, Joyner’s just starting to feel comfortable.”