Davenport

Junior guard Empress Davenport stuffed the stat sheet in the win over California. Davenport finished with 11 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

With four players scoring double digits and the Longhorns shooting nearly 48 percent all game, No. 5-seeded Texas hung on in the final minutes to defeat No. 4 seed California, 73–70, on Sunday.

Texas stuck with its experienced lineup in its second-round game in the NCAA Tournament in Berkeley, California. 

Similar to its first round matchup against Western Kentucky, Texas struggled with turnovers early. The Longhorns’ 11 first-half turnovers kept the game close throughout the first half.

Tied at 27 at the break, Texas came out of halftime on a 6–0 run. It led by as many as 12 points in the second half, but California began to cut into its deficit, scoring key field goals and making seven 3-pointers.

“[When we have trouble], we talk about attacking the basket, not standing around the 3-point line and not turning the ball over,” junior guard Empress Davenport said. “That is just a conversation we have between the guards.” 

The team eventually started to limit its turnovers, only giving up the ball three times in the final 20 minutes. The Longhorns shot 50 percent in the final stanza and made 10-of-12 free- throw attempts to capture the victory.

Freshman guard Brooke McCarty played only 17 minutes but hit crucial late free throws, just as she did in the first-round game, to seal the win for Texas. Outside of her strong performance from the charity stripe, McCarty shot 5-of-7 from the field and combined for 16 points with two steals.

Junior center Imani McGee-Stafford, who has struggled this season due to injuries, captured her second consecutive double-double performance in this year’s NCAA Tournament with 20 points and 11 boards. After limited playing time during the regular season, she has been a focal point of Texas’ postseason play. 

“This has been a really long season,” McGee-Stafford said. “Coach has brought me along slow and make sure I got my legs back. All of [my] teammates have been really helpful, waiting for me to get everything back and trusting me when I was ready.” 

With a slew of injuries and adversities this season, head coach Karen Aston focused on using her veteran players to help the Longhorns make a deep postseason run in the weeks leading up to the tournament. 

“Because we have experience, we know what to expect when the NCAA Tournament comes,” Davenport said when the seeds were announced. “I think it’s just a feel for the game and when the freshmen and sophomores see us on the court, it just makes them more comfortable.” 

The Longhorns now advance to their first Sweet 16 appearance since the 2003-2004 season, when current Longhorns head coach Karen Aston was then an assistant coach for the team. They play either top-seeded UConn or No. 8 Rutgers on Saturday in Albany, New York. 

Down two points to No. 6 Stanford with six seconds remaining, No. 10 Texas relied upon its experience and depth on the road as junior guard Empress Davenport penetrated the lane for a layup to send the game into overtime.

Facing the team that ended top-ranked UConn’s 47-game winning streak in overtime early this week, Texas pulled away late to outlast the Cardinal in the extra stanza, 87-81.

The win marks the first time Texas beat Stanford in Palo Alto, California, since 1981. The Longhorns also ended the Cardinal’s 28-game home win streak at Maples Pavilion.

Texas jumped out to a six-point lead over the Cardinals at halftime but the second half featured a slightly different story. The Longhorns did not score a point for the first 4:35 of the second period. After that, Texas would match Stanford point-for-point — halfway through the second half both teams scored a total of 31 points in five minutes.

But for the first time since the opening half, Stanford took the lead with less than two minutes remaining.

After Davenport’s game tying layup, Stanford tied the game in overtime with less than a minute remaining but junior guard Brady Sanders' jumper gave Texas a lead it would not relinquish. Late points from freshmen guard Brook McCarty increased the lead and secured the victory for the Longhorns.

Texas shot 48.5 percent from the field. Senior forward Nneka Enemkpali led the team in points with 18 but fouled out in the second half. Davenport fouled out in overtime.

The team amassed 30 personal fouls and had five players with three fouls with less than eight minutes left in the second half.

Freshmen guard Ariel Atkins scored 16 points and shot 50 percent from beyond the arc making two. Sanders led the team with 4 assists, while sophomore center Kelsey Lang shot 7 for 12 from the field with 14 points and nine rebounds.

Texas will look to regain energy quickly as it ends its road trip Sunday against the UCLA Bruins at 3 p.m. 

Duncanville senior and Longhorn recruit Ariel Atkins poses during the McDonald's All-American awards ceremony.

Photo courtesy of John Konstantaras/Associated Press

It all started at recess. Ariel Atkins dribbled the basketball up and down the concrete with spunk, like she always did at home, when the school’s coach approached her.           

“Do you want to be on the team?” the coach asked.

Atkins told her first scout that she needed to ask her mom. After all, she was only 4. The Atkins family had no idea she would one day become the No. 4 recruit in the country.

Atkins has continued to pose a threat on the basketball court during the last 14 years. During her junior year last year, the Duncanville High School guard averaged 16.8 points, 5.5 steals and 6.1 rebounds per game while shooting 55.4 percent from the field and 49.2 percent behind the arc. She led her team, the Pantherettes, to an undefeated season that culminated in a state championship. 

Texas head coach Karen Aston was impressed.

“[Atkins] is a dynamic scorer and a tremendous defender,” Aston said. “She is a player that demands so much from her teammates; another high-motor player that fits our style perfectly. [Atkins] is a throwback player who is best described as simply special.”

Her standout resume even led to an offer from Texas.

“It’s a blessing,” Atkins said. “My mom told me she was always thinking about a scholarship, but I wasn’t. I was just having fun. When I realized I could actually play basketball for four more years, I was pretty hyped.”

Coming to Texas, Atkins joins a legacy of players with dual Pantherette-Longhorn loyalties. The line of succession begins with Duncanville head coach Cathy Self-Morgan, who averaged 17.6 points and 4.1 assists during her junior year in her 1974-77 career as a Longhorn power forward. Most recently, Texas welcomed sophomore guard Empress Davenport from Duncanville.

But, as she joins the legacy, Atkins stands out. It’s not just because she led her team to a 105-game win streak, which was only snapped in a devastating championship loss this season after Atkins fouled out. And it’s not just because she upped her impressive stats to 17.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.8 steals and 3.9 assists her senior season. It’s not even because she did all this while maintaining a GPA above 3.5 and she will soon graduate in the top-8 percent of her class. It is because of Atkins’ character.

A November matchup with Manvel High School — the team that downed Duncanville 58-53 in the championship on March 1 — epitomizes Atkins’ style.

At half-time, the scrappy Manvel team led 32-18. Self-Morgan was furious.

“We don’t play fearful,” Self-Morgan said during the break. “With my finger pointing at their chest, I refused to ever let any one of my Pantherettes be afraid of anyone.”

She threw a water bottle to get the girls’ attention.

“In Pantherette ball, we play hard,” Self-Morgan said. “We play hungry. We go after the loose balls, and we score.”

Duncanville reclaimed its lead with a 25-point third quarter. Atkins and Texas signee Tasia Foman, the two players who Self-Morgan said did not show fear, acted as team role models.

“People were asking me [whether] was I scared that game — no, I wasn’t scared,” Atkins said. “That’s not cockiness. It’s just knowing what my team is capable of. We weren’t Duncanville Pantherettes the first half of the game.”

Atkins translates that mentality to every game. She said the 105-game winning streak was a blessing rather than pressure.

“If you put pressure on yourself, it means you get stressed out; you get anxious,” Atkins said. “Anxious means fear of the unknown. We have to be confident.”

But Atkins and her team tempered that confidence with a sense of reality.

“You can’t just expect a win when we walk on the floor because of the name on our jersey,” she said. “We don’t work like that.”

Walking onto the court at the McDonald’s All-American Game on Wednesday night, Atkins won’t expect a win, either. But the All-American Player of the Year will live up to her standards, playing with focus, motivation and heart.

“We’ve got to play hard, want to win and hustle,” Atkins said. “That’s what [Duncanville] represents.”

Atkins will play in the McDonald’s All-American Game at 6 p.m. Wednesday night in Chicago. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

Photo Credit: Lauren Ussery | Daily Texan Staff

Texas overpowered a slow defense Wednesday night to smother Texas Tech, 88-51. The Longhorns held a 48-4 scoring advantage in the paint to prove head coach Karen Aston that they are, in fact, “a lot better at home.”

“You can really tell the difference in our team’s personality and their comfort at home,” Aston said. “The crowds are growing and becoming a bigger part of it, but there’s no question that it’s made a difference for our team this year.”

Texas started off slow, allowing the Red Raiders (6-16, 0-11 Big 12) to score first off a foul shot by sophomore guard Brady Sanders. The teams exchanged leads three times in the first five minutes before the Texas offense took off on a 28-3 run. Texas scored 22 points in the paint, while shutting out Texas Tech’s interior presence but didn’t limit itself to inside shooting. Texas shot 75 percent from the free throw line and hit 46.7 percent of its shots from behind the arc.

“They’re getting more comfortable,” Aston said. “We’ve slowed down a bit but I thought we’d slowed down too much. I started calling a few more plays, trying to get back to our transition game.”

Texas’ comfort and big lead made it possible for 11 players to enter the game in the first half, 10 of whom scored and five of whom hit threes. Sophomore center Imani McGee-Stafford’s perfect five shot attempts highlighted the half as she towered above defenders. Texas finished the half up 51-22.

“Everyone was shooting around and feeling good before the game,” sophomore guard Empress Davenport said. “It had to do a lot with our focus.”

The Longhorns (15-7, 6-4 Big 12) continued to stretch their lead through the second half, as Davenport, Sanders and McGee-Stafford cruised to double figures in scoring. After struggling with just two points in 14 minutes against Baylor on Saturday, Davenport connected on 7 of 9 from the field to finish with 15 points. Though she said she “didn’t get as many rebounds as [she] needed to,” Aston thought Davenport’s comeback was crucial.

“It was really important she had a good game,” Aston said. “It’s a maturity game. She played a very solid game, was focused and kept her emotions in check.”

Texas showed why it leads the Big 12 in 3-point field goal percentage. The Longhorns also improved their conference best field goal percentage defense as they restricted the Red Raiders to a mere 26 percent shooting. 

“We focus every day on getting better offensively,” Aston said. “I think it’s evident that every day we are getting better, more comfortable with the system and with each other.”

Freshman guard Empress Davenport saw 36 minutes of playing time and scored a season-high 15 points in Texas’s sweep of TCU.  Davenport had plenty to celebrate: Tuesday was also her 19th birthday.  

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

The Texas Longhorns bounced back from their 20-point loss to Baylor last weekend by defeating the TCU Horned Frogs 59-46 Tuesday night. Defense fueled the Longhorns’ effort as they held the Horned Frogs to 30.2 percent shooting in the game.

“First of all I thought we got out of the gates really well,” head coach Karen Aston said. “We played a really good first 10 minutes. I call them four minute games and I thought the first couple four minute games were really, really good for our team.”

Texas’ defense looked impenetrable in the first half as it forced TCU into 17 missed shots on its first 18 from the field. The Texas offense finally found a formula for getting out of the gates early, moving the ball well against the zone defense of TCU, leading to a 21-3 run to start the game.

“That is the second game in a row against Texas that we have gotten zero production out of those forwards,” TCU head coach Jeff Mittie said. “You are not going to beat them that way because their strength is in their four’s and five’s and in their rebounding.”

Imani McGee-Stafford carried the load inside in the first half, recording seven points and seven rebounds as Texas outrebounded the Horned Frogs 27-15. Despite only shooting 40.7 percent in the opening frame, the Longhorns held TCU to 21.9 percent to take a 30-18 lead into halftime.

Entering the second half it appeared the Horned Frogs had solved the puzzle of the Texas defense as they stormed their way to a 16-4 run, tying the game at 34 a piece at the 12:51 mark. The Horned Frogs forced four Texas turnovers during this run, making Texas hesitant to pass the ball inside.

“Coach told us it was going to be a dogfight unless we came out of the gates and we didn’t come out of the gates,” McGee-Stafford said. “We kind of let up on our defense and weren’t rebounding like we should have.”

For a team that’s lacked resiliency this season, Texas didn’t quit as it followed the TCU run with a 15-4 scoring run of its own. Empress Davenport, who turned 19 years old Tuesday, was the catalyst of this run, scoring seven of her 15 points in this six-minute interval.

“The coaches have been coaching me through each situation,” Davenport said. “The games and practices have helped me grow as a person.”

In addition to its strong defensive performance, Texas outrebounded its opponent for the 20th time this season, besting TCU 47-28 on the boards. McGee-Stafford led the team with 12 rebounds to go along with her 15 points, giving her a double-double for the 12th time this season.

As the season nears its end, the Longhorns have to be pleased with the progression the team has made in playing consistently for a full forty minutes.

“Our freshmen have had way too many minutes for us to be making excuses about mistakes they are making or things that they do wrong,” Aston said. “They are feeling more comfortable with the expectations of our coaching staff and of the Big 12.”

Published on February 27, 2013 as "Texas stifiles TCU in win". 

Why Texas Won:
Texas came out of the gate hot, showing the 2,814 in attendance why it has now won two of its last three games. The team went on a 19-3 run to start the game and took TCU by surprise. Bench players made a huge impact for the Longhorns as they scored 15 points for Texas through 44 minutes of combined play. The Texas defense also played solid as it held TCU to just a 30.2 shooting percentage and left opponents with only one basket amongst 18 attempts in the first 12 minutes. 

First Half:
Texas started out the game strong, continuing its hot shooting from its last home stand. The Longhorns went on a streak to put the Horned Frogs behind from the start, not allowing a point from them for approximately ten minutes after their first three. TCU was struck with poor shooting and sloppy play in the first part of the half, shooting only 21.9 percent from the floor. The tides started to turn, however, just after midway through when the Longhorns lost their focus, missed shooting opportunities and let the Horned Frogs end the half with a 10-3 run to shorten the Texas lead to 30-18.

Second Half:
Texas started off the second half the same way it ended the first — struggling. TCU came out of the gate with a 16-4 run to get within two points of the Longhorns. After a media timeout midway through the half, Texas began to find its way again and went on a 11-4 run of its own to stretch the lead back out. The Longhorns would maintain that margin against their new Big 12 foe and claim their fourth conference win of the season by a 59-46 edge. Texas shot 40.7 percent from the floor each half. 

Stock-Up

Freshman duo of Davenport and Sanders: Empress Davenport and Brady Sanders both celebrated a birthday this week as Davenport turned 19 on Tuesday and Sanders turned 20 on Monday. Davenport tied Imani McGee-Stafford as the two led the team with 15 points each, a career-high for Davenport that she complemented with five rebounds. Brittany Sanders also had an impact night with eight points and four assists, going four-for-four from the free throw line. 

By the Numbers:

33- Texas’ win against TCU was its 33rd in program history. The Longhorns hold a perfect record against the Horned Frogs, who they have been playing against since 1976.  
15- Davenport, who celebrated her 19th birthday by helping claim Texas’ 11th win of the season, had a career-high 15 points on the night. This was a game-high tied by McGee-Stafford. 

What’s Next

The Longhorns look to Saturday when they travel to Stillwater, Okla. to face Oklahoma State. The last time these two teams met the Longhorns lost a 64-52 thriller to the Cowgirls in the midst of a nine-game drought. 

First Half: With everyone counting them out before the game even started, the Longhorns had their pedal to the metal from the opening tip as they jumped out to a 5-0 lead to start the game. They wasted no time executing their game plan on Brittney Griner, bumping her hard and forcing her into double teams every possession before sending her to the bench with two fouls at the 12:44 mark. Griner finished the half with only two points in nine minutes of play. The Bears forced 15 Texas turnovers and held the Longhorns to only 32.1 percent shooting. Imani McGee-Stafford led the charge for Texas in what was an overall sloppy half, compiling eight points and 11 rebounds. Baylor took a 34-25 lead into halftime.

Second Half: Texas kept the game tight to open the second half, continuing to pressure Griner. Empress Davenport lit a fire under the Longhorns by making her first three shots to open the half before McGee-Stafford hit a three-pointer with 16:25 left to cut the Baylor lead to four. Everything changed however after Griner found an opening and dunked the ball home with 15:05 to go, bringing the Baylor fans to their feet and energizing her teammates. Baylor proved too pesky on defense and too strong in the paint. Baylor finished the final 16 minutes on a 34-14 run while outscoring the Longhorns 38-20 in the paint for the game.

By the Numbers: 

18: McGee-Stafford pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds despite being matched up with Griner the majority of the game.

31.6: Texas shot just 31.6 percent from the floor in the game against one of the best defenses in the country.

20: Baylor outscored Texas by 20 points in the final 16 minutes of regulation, turning a seven-point second-half lead into a 27-point victory.

Stock Up:

Saturday was a momentous night in freshman McGee-Stafford’s career. Despite only shooting 31.3 percent from the field, she pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds as she continued to show the progression in her game. She showed no fear while going head-to-head with the best player in women’s basketball, playing 38 valuable minutes, a career high. She also knocked down her first career three-pointer in the game.

Next Time Out:

Texas will head to Manhattan, Kan. on Wednesday to battle Kansas State.

Nneka Enemkpali (3) attemps to score but is blocked by Baylor player Brittney Griner (42).

Photo Credit: Marisa Vasquez | Daily Texan Staff

Brittney Griner and Odyssesy Sims sparked a second-half 34-14 Baylor run to push the Bears to a 75-48 win over Texas.

The Longhorns (9-13, 2-9 Big 12), who have struggled in conference play this season, gave up a big two-handed dunk by Griner, which opened the game up giving the Bears (22-1, 12-0 Big 12) the eventual win. Other than that Griner had an average game with 14 points and three rebounds.

Texas was led by the freshman duo of Imani McGee-Stafford and Empress Davenport, who both tallied 13 points on the night. McGee-Stafford stood tall against the All-American Griner, with a career-high 18 rebounds.

“I use [Griner] as a sort of measuring stick. I was obviously compared to her a lot in high school,” McGee-Stafford said. “I statistically outrebounded her [in tonight’s game]. I can’t say I am satisfied because we lost but I wasn’t the freshman tonight. I can say that.”

Texas kept the game close for the most part in the first half as they threw everything they had at Griner, double-teaming, sometimes triple-teaming her. The Longhorns even caused the 6-foot-8 star to play just nine minutes in the first half after she failed to produce. Baylor only had a 34-25 lead at halftime.

The second half was a different story, however. Up by just nine, Griner took an inbound pass and went up for the dunk, stopping all momentum Texas had.

Even with the inspired performance from Stafford and Davneport, the Longhorns were outscored 41-23 in the second half and fell to the defending national champions by 28 points.

“Typical Baylor performance where they are just dominating on the defensive end,” head coach Karen Aston said. “More than anything I would love to see our team prepare and compete on a daily basis the way we did for this evenings game.”

Half-By-Half

First Half: Texas was struck with turnovers and inconsistent play as it let Iowa State end the half with a 14-0 run and a first-half 39-24 in favor of the Cyclones. The Longhorns made only 33.3 percent from the floor while they let the Cyclones shoot 53.6 percent. Anna Prins, at 6-foot-7, led Iowa State with 14 points while freshman Empress Davenport led her squad with seven. The Longhorns also had a tough time controlling the parameter as they let Iowa State make 53.8 percent of their three-point shots.  

Second Half: The Longhorns came out looking for a spark to get their third straight win. While they improved on both sides of the ball, the Cyclones were able to keep the young team at bay. Celina Rodrigo, coming off just two points in the first half, came out hot and finished the second half with eight more points. However, finishing with a 49.0 shooting percentage, the Cyclones ended the game with a 16-4 run to claim the victory. 

Stock Up

The freshman duo of Davenport and Rodrigo led the Longhorns on offense- Davenport finished with 13 points on the night while Rodrigo had season-high 10 on the night. The pair, which averaged 35 minutes of playing time on the night, kept Texas alive in the first part of the second half as they made big shots.

Stock Down

Nneka Enemkpali- Toward the middle of the first half, Enemkpali got tangled up with an Iowa State player and was slow to get up. After that, she seemed to move at half-pace and had trouble making shots. The sophomore, who is usually the points leader for the Longhorns, ended up with just six points and five rebounds. 

By the Numbers:

10: Texas was held to just 10 points in the paint. Enemkpali and Imani McGee-Stafford were held to just 11 combined points which shut out the Longhorns’ main source of points down low.

20: In their nine wins this season, the Longhorns have held their opponents to just 29 percent shooting from the floor. In Wednesday’s game, Texas allowed 20 percent greater shooting, allowing 49 percent. 

The Longhorns now look to Saturday night when they will face No. 1 ranked Baylor (21-1, 11-0 20-1, 10-0). This is the first game between Texas and the Bears after Baylor won the national championship last spring. 

Freshman Empress Davenport has found her niche after a slow start to her career, averaging 7.2 points in Big 12 play.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

About 19 months ago, an excited Duncanville High junior had to decide one thing. Did she want to become a Cowgirl, a Jayhawk or a Longhorn?

The 17-year-old Empress Davenport decided to move about 200 miles south and become a Longhorn.

Although Gail Goestenkors was the head coach when she committed to Texas, current head coach Karen Aston knew Davenport would be an integral part of the Longhorns’ future success.

“Empress is incredibly competitive and comes from Duncanville, where the environment has been very competitive, so she understands how to compete,” Aston said at the beginning of the season. “It has put her at an advantage in practice every day, and I expect her to play a lot.”

While starting 14 of the 16 games so far this season, Davenport has averaged 7.2 points a game, sixth most on the team. She has also shot 34.4 percent from the floor and recorded 20 steals, ranking second on the team.

Davenport wasn’t always putting up numbers this good every game. The freshman started slow, scoring minimally and showing almost no presence on the court. Whatever was causing this slump is gone now.

The holiday cheer between Christmas and New Year’s must have gotten to the 5-foot-7-inch guard as she has been a vital part of the young Longhorns team ever since. In her game against Big 12 rival Oklahoma, Davenport recorded a career-high 12 points and seven rebounds, which brought her team within eight points of a win against its ranked opponent.

“Empress and I talked a lot about roles and how she can get better before Christmas break,” Aston said after the rivalry game. “She has really responded in the last two games.”

Davenport didn’t look back.

In her next game, she turned in an even better performance against new Big 12 foe West Virginia. Davenport scored a career-high 14 points as her team fell in a dramatic loss.

“[Davenport] continues to do what she is asked to do,” Aston said. “She has really picked it up over the past two games, especially in rebounding.”

Although the aspiring anesthesiologist, who has continually stepped up her game from the start of conference play, isn’t frightened by the Big 12, her team might be as they have gone 0-5, the worst start of conference play in school history.

Aston has put a lot of focus on her younger players in the hope that they will carry the team out of the downward spiral it is headed into.

“The people that are taking ownership are really young, so I am asking freshmen and a sophomore and junior college transfer to take a lot of ownership,” Aston said. “It is hard for them.”

While the Longhorns have lost their last seven games, Aston is staying optimistic that her team is getting better every day.

“If they had bad attitudes or if they weren’t trying, I would be very frustrated, but I don’t feel that way,” Aston said. “It is not in them to quit. They are preparing better, but when they get into the games, they are still young and they forget what we have prepared. That will come with time.”

Davenport, as she continues to rise as a leader of this Longhorn team, is hopeful that her team will come out of this decline with a new look and a new way to win. The enthusiastic guard is ready to take on the rest of the season with the hard-hitting attitude she is known for.

“The Big 12 is a difficult conference and we have to stay aggressive,” Davenport said. “That’s how we get numbers. Everyone goes out and plays aggressive.”