Texas dominates Southern at home, builds momentum for Hawai’i tournament

Robert Trevino

From the get-go, Sunday’s early afternoon affair at the Frank Erwin Center against the visiting Southern Jaguars was all Texas. The Longhorns’ first miss of the day came six minutes into the first quarter, the same quarter in which Texas scored a season-high 30 points to open a 17-point lead.

It was a complete quarter —  even in spite of five turnovers —  that saw Texas go 10-for-11 from the field, 8-for-8 from the free-throw line and pull away from the Jaguars, not with quick bursts of scoring, but with slow and consistent dominance.

“It’s something we always stress, and I think the players know that’s my philosophy — to get out of the gates pretty quick in the first three or four minutes to really try to set a tone,” head coach Karen Aston said. “I thought we did that today.”

Texas regressed to the mean slightly in the second quarter, albeit a mean that left them with a 46-19 lead at halftime. Senior forward Joyner Holmes led the way early on with 12 first-half points and ended up keeping her double-double streak alive — with five such performances in as many games — with 27 points and 10 rebounds en route to a 93-39 win.

“The last few games, we’ve been trying to stress to start off a little bit quicker,” Holmes said. “In the Arizona game, we got down in the first quarter because we didn’t start off as fast … I think we started off pretty well (today) and carried it over to the second half.”

Sunday’s contest was the last opportunity for Texas to tune up before its trip to Honolulu, Hawai'i for the Rainbow Wahine Showdown next Friday, where they’ll play three games in three straight days against North Carolina State, North Texas and Hawaii.

“I’m actually really excited,” Aston said on her team’s improving ability to translate how they practice to how they perform in-game. “You can tell that some lights are coming on a little bit. It’ll be interesting to see how we look three games in a row just because we do have a lack of depth … but I think they’ll be fine with that.”

The 54-point win would end up being the Longhorns’ most dominant victory of the early season, besting the 31-point drubbing they handed UTSA earlier this month. The 39 points from the Jaguars were also the lowest the Texas defense has given up this season, in large part due to the 17 turnovers the Longhorns forced and varying defensive schemes such as zone defense and, at times, a full-court press.

“I thought the ball pressure and urgency maybe even increased when we (substituted) … maybe we’re starting to find a bit of a rotation,” Aston said. “When you talk about hustle plays and just trying to set a tempo, it looked like we had that mindset from the beginning, so obviously I’m pleased with that.”

In the end, it was the Longhorns’ largest margin of victory at home since a 56-point win over McNeese State last November, giving Texas momentum for the tournament in Hawaii next week. 

The team’s excitement for their trip to Honolulu was portrayed by sophomore center Charli Collier, who couldn’t wait to answer a question about it. She grabbed the microphone before anyone else could say anything.

“I’ve never been to Hawai'i, so it’s going to be amazing,” said Collier. “Our chemistry, we’re coming together, and we’re playing really well. Today was eye-opening for me, like we can really do this.”