At a Longhorns’ practice two weeks ago, head coach Karen Aston was irked.
The Longhorns were running a free throw drill in which the players needed to get an offensive rebound against the scout team. But on two separate plays, the ball hit the ground before any player touched it. Aston felt her players could have grabbed both.
“Bigs, y’all are soft,” Aston shouted. “Way too soft.”
Texas isn’t quite as long as it used to be. The team lost 6-foot-5-inch center Kelsey Lang to graduation and 6-foot-3-inch sophomore forward Joyner Holmes to a suspension for the 2017 fall semester. Both were starters last year and combined to average 16 rebounds per game.
With the pair no longer around to lean on, Aston knew she needed to shift the team’s approach to crashing the glass.
“For a while we were dependent on a couple of players to get a lot of rebounds for us,” Aston said. “I don’t think this team is made like that … (We’ve been focusing on) team rebounding. And that means one through five.”
In their season opener against Stetson on Sunday, the Longhorns got the message.
On the opening play against the Hatters, Texas lost the tip-off and headed toward the defensive end. Senior forward Audrey-Ann Caron-Goudreau secured the first board of the game off of a missed three-pointer by Stetson freshman guard Sydney Wagner.
The Longhorns made their way to the other end and fed the ball to transfer junior center Jatarie White. White shot a jump hook that rimmed out, but gathered her miss and tried to put the ball back up.
The ball fell out again, but was collected by senior guard Ariel Atkins, who finally made a layup on the left side. The early possession was the beginning of a dominant quarter.
The Hatters didn’t grab a single rebound until 3:17 remained in the first period. Stetson finished the quarter with just three: a pair of boards by Wagner and a tip by Caron-Goudreau that went out of bounds that was listed as a team rebound.
Texas racked up 10 offensive rebounds en route to a 33-point first period, the highest mark in a single quarter in program history. The Longhorns outscored the Hatters 15-0 in second chance points.
“I think with (Lang) not being here this year and our size being a little bit smaller, I think we need to focus even more on boxing out and actually putting a body on somebody every possession,” Caron-Goudreau said. “Because different teams do different things and we never know who’s going to go rebound, so we just need to find out every single time.”
The burnt orange won the game, 95-59. Twelve of Texas’ 13 players grabbed at least two rebounds as the Longhorns outrebounded Stetson 51-25. But despite the impressive effort on the glass, Aston still thinks there is room for improvement.
“I thought there were segments it could have been better, but honestly it’s shot selection,” Aston said. “It’s just the understanding that a good shot typically will lead into an offensive rebound. And we just took some quick shots that didn’t allow us to, so we’ll look at that, we’ll get better at that.”
Texas is now 1–0 on the season and will have a quick turnaround, taking on McNeese State on Wednesday at 11:00 a.m.