It was a long plane ride home for Jatarie White.
The Longhorns had just come off a 72-59 road win over Iowa State on Feb. 24. White’s performance wasn’t nearly as strong as her team’s.
The junior center was exiled to the bench for most of the evening, dealing with foul trouble and a lack of confidence. She finished the game with two points and four fouls in just 15 minutes of playing time.
White knew she was capable of more. Texas head coach Karen Aston knew it too. The pair went over game film and discussed adjustments the post could make moving forward.
“She’s been getting it early — you know, a couple of quick fouls — and it kind of takes her out of any kind of rhythm,” Aston said after Texas’ game against Oklahoma on Feb. 27. “I feel bad for her because I feel like she gets in the worst situations where she gets these fouls, or I guess ‘fouls.’ We’re working on trying to get her to learn how to manage that.”
White managed it well during No. 7 Texas’ 81-69 victory over the Cyclones on Saturday in the second round of the Big 12 Tournament in Oklahoma City, picking up just one foul. She made up for the time lost in her last matchup with Iowa State.
Two midrange jumpers early in the first quarter was all White needed to get her groove back. At the end of the first quarter, she led Texas with six points on 3-of-3 shooting. She went back to work down low from there.
Around the seven-minute mark in the second quarter, sophomore forward Joyner Holmes drove to the right block on a fast break. The Cyclones sent two defenders to stop her, leaving an open runway for White to fly through in the middle of the floor. Holmes lobbed the ball over the double team, and White laid the ball in to give Texas a 26-17 lead.
Later in the fourth quarter, Holmes grabbed a missed 3-pointer from Iowa State freshman center Kristin Scott. Holmes brought the ball up herself and drew another double team by driving inside again. This time, White flashed to the high post and rained in a floater for her seventh basket of the game.
“I think I just get a little bit more comfortable with my teammates as the games go on,” White said. “I’m just enjoying playing with my team and enjoying the ride and kind of just giving it my all.”
White finished the night with 18 points and a career-high-tying 12 rebounds. It was the most she’d scored since the Longhorns’ 73-55 victory over West Virginia on Feb. 5.
“I think you’re just seeing what Jatarie is capable of,” senior guard Brooke McCarty said. “I mean, we knew. Everybody on our team knows what Jatarie can do. And when she’s on her game, she’s really good and really hard to defend.”
With the win, No. 2-seed Texas (25–5, 15–3 Big 12) advances to the semifinal round and will take on No. 6-seed West Virginia (20–10, 8–10 Big 12).
Texas will need White to remain confident through the rest of the tournament. Although her goal is to win the title, White doesn’t want to get too far ahead of herself.
“You do catch yourself thinking about what-ifs and like, ‘I can’t wait to get to that point,’” White said. “But you have to stay in the moment and make sure you get one win at a time and make sure you’re doing things right in that moment. And you can’t really look ahead at what could be.”
The Longhorns tip off Sunday at 4:30 p.m.