The Longhorns filed into the Frank Erwin Center on Saturday dressed out in their warm-up gear. They didn’t take the floor, though.
Instead, Texas’ players and coaches gathered behind the baseline at the beginning of the third quarter as spectators of 7-seeded Arizona State’s 73-62 victory over 10-seeded Nebraska. It was the first time the Longhorns watched either team play all season.
The Sun Devils stormed out to a 14-0 run, edging out the Huskers in rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. Texas took mental notes of everything it saw, then left at the beginning of the fourth quarter to make final preparations before its 83-54 victory over 15-seeded Maine.
With Texas and Arizona State advancing to the second round Monday night, the Longhorns had just one day to prepare for a team they’ve seen play for 10 minutes.
“(You) definitely have to be more focused,” senior guard Ariel Atkins said. “When you play the Big 12, we kind of go through the years’ play against these players, and we know the tendencies as a team. So you have to focus in on what the coaches are saying. They’re up all night watching film, so it’s important that we focus on the personal tendencies.”
Texas head coach Karen Aston already knows a few of the tendencies she’ll point out.
“(Arizona State head coach Charli Turner Thorne’s) teams always have some tendencies about them that are always the same,” Aston said. “They’re extremely competitive, play defense as good as anybody. And this particular team has been very impressive on the board.”
The Sun Devils out-rebounded Nebraska 49-27, including 11-5 in the third quarter. They were led by junior center Charnea Johnson-Chapman with 10.
The Longhorns have rebounded well all year and dominated the boards against Maine, taking a 43-12 advantage. It will take a similar effort from Texas to keep Arizona State from getting extra possessions.
“(Rebounding) will be extremely important,” Atkins said. “It’s important for our team, period, to help our post rebound more. I think we need to rebound more as a team versus depending on ourselves all the time.”
Arizona State also likes to run a platoon system with its bench. Rather than subbing players out individually, Thorne will send in three or four players at a time to ensure her lineup is always fresh. The Sun Devils made 63 substitutions against the Huskers.
“I think it does present a challenge,” Aston said. “Every player’s going to have a little bit of a different tendency, and the things that they’re looking for out of certain players are probably different. The fact that they sub very frequently will be a challenge for us, most definitely.”
The main point of emphasis for Aston will be her team’s focus. Every second will be important with limited time to prepare.
“When Coach (Aston) gets us out in practice,” junior center Jataria White said, “we have to make sure we know exactly what the team is doing offensively, as well as making sure that we understand what they’re trying to do to us on the defensive end.”
Texas will host Arizona State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the Erwin Center on Monday at 8 p.m.