Junior guards Ariel Atkins and Brooke McCarty have clinched many victories for Texas in crunch time throughout their careers.
Freshman forward Joyner Holmes embraced that role Saturday.
Tied with the Wildcats with under two minutes to play, Holmes converted back-to-back layups on a pair of dimes from sophomore guard Lashann Higgs to lead the No. 12 Longhorns past Kansas State, 63-58, at the Frank Erwin Center.
Those four points — part of a team-high 21-point outing for Holmes — proved to be the final two field goals of the game as Texas forced five-straight Wildcat misses in crunch time.
“I’m glad that coach and my teammates trust the ball in my hands at that moment,” Holmes said. “So that’s something I take a lot of pride in. But other than that, I just try to do what I can do and if we can get a bucket, then we get a bucket. And if not, I’m looking for my teammates to see if I can put them in position to get points or score.”
Saturday’s win over the Wildcats ties the longest conference win streak in program history at 12. The team moved to a perfect 12-0 against Big 12 opponents and 18-4 overall.
A strong performance from Texas’ other big, senior center Kelsey Lang, propelled her to two career milestones. With 10 points, nine rebounds and a game-high five blocks, Lang moved into seventh place on Texas’ all-time career blocks list with 160.
Lang’s 10 points also earned her a place in Texas’ 1,000-point club. She’s one of only 41 players in school history to accomplish the feat.
“I’m just really proud of Kelsey’s career and her journey,” head coach Karen Aston said. “She’s also grown into a really solid basketball player… It seems like we’re just so much calmer when Kelsey is on the floor. And a lot of it is her experience and her understanding of the game.”
Lang’s composure will be tested as the Longhorns turn their attention to the season’s most anticipated matchup — Monday’s road contest against No. 2 Baylor.
Texas heads to Waco for the first meeting between the Big 12’s top two teams with a lot at stake –– sole possession of the top spot in the conference.
Baylor boasts a formidable two-way playstyle, sitting at No. 2 nationally in scoring offense and No. 3 in scoring defense.
Texas, which has controlled the rebounding battle in 20 of its 22 games this season, will likely find itself outmatched on the glass against a bigger Baylor team. Texas sits at No. 4 nationally in rebounding margin at plus 11.2. The No. 1 spot in that category belongs to the Bears.
Baylor’s only loss of the season came at the hands of the nation’s premier team –– No. 1 Connecticut on Nov. 17. The Huskies handed Texas its most recent loss back on Dec. 4. Texas is a perfect 16-0 since it squared off against the Huskies.
In her final trip to Waco, Lang understands what a road win of this significance would mean for this team’s lofty aspirations.
“Me and (Brianna Taylor) as seniors definitely take that into consideration,” Lang said. “And it is our last time, and I think that we wanna go out strong.”
The key to success in Waco may lie in the hands of Texas’ frontcourt tandem –– Lang and Holmes. Holmes is prepared for her first matchup against Texas’ top conference foe. The two teams tipoff on Monday at 7 p.m.
“I know it’ll be fun,” Holmes said. “We have a lot of matchups. One through five positions. So just trying to go at it and just have fun and enjoy the experience.”