Freshman forward Rellah Boothe missed her first free throw, high fived a few teammates, then lined back up to take her second. The streak was close to ending.
The Longhorns were up 29-12 over the University of Texas at San Antonio on Friday night and needed just one point to earn their third consecutive 30-point first quarter.
Texas’ starters had done most of the heavy lifting thus far. A three from senior guard Brooke McCarty sparked an 18-4 run by the Longhorns in the first 3:38 of the game. Every starter scored during the stretch as McCarty picked up eight points.
“We tell ourselves, ‘Look, first five minutes is going to show us how the game goes,’” McCarty said. “That’s one of the things coach preaches a lot, is to set the tone the first five minutes of the game. That’s what we really value.”
The starters went on to score 28 of the team’s first-quarter points and a free throw from sophomore wing Jada Underwood made it 29. Just 50.7 seconds remained when it all came down to Boothe making her second free throw.
The shot fell in and the Longhorns went on to defeat the Roadrunners, 120-70.
Once the starters rested, it was the burnt orange bench’s turn to get buckets. The reserves racked up 66 points, including a 32-point fourth quarter in which none of the starters played.
Underwood had a breakout performance. She made another four trips to the charity stripe and converted six of nine free throws. She led the team with 19 points and nine rebounds, achieving career highs in all three categories.
“Nothing (Underwood) does surprises me,” head coach Karen Aston said. “She has the tools, it’s just a matter of what’s going on between those ears and does she really believe she has the tools.”
For Underwood, the moment was a long time coming. She’s one of just four players on Texas’ roster who wasn’t a high school All-American and had to battle for minutes during her freshman year.
Through three games this year, she’s averaging 17 minutes per game, primarily serving as senior guard Ariel Atkins’ backup.
“I love challenges, so I’m going to do whatever it takes for the team to win.” Underwood said. “I come into practice with the mindset of like, ‘I’m playing with the bigs, so just compete with them.’ If I can beat out the best, then we can beat anybody in the country.”
Underwood and the Longhorns get their first crack at major conference competition next week at the South Point Shootout in Las Vegas. The Longhorns will need to prepare for the increase in skill with their upcoming opponents.
“(LSU and Washington will) come to Vegas expecting to win also,” Aston said. “I think the pace of the way they play is quite a bit different from the things we’ve seen.”
Texas takes on LSU in the first leg of the Shootout on Nov. 24. Tipoff is at 5:30 p.m.