Kansas State played two steps ahead on Saturday night, and it didn’t matter.
The No. 6 Longhorns won on the Wildcats’ terms at the Frank Erwin Center, besting a Kansas State team that seemed to make all the necessary adjustments.
Texas 76; Kansas State 54.
The first adjustment came two minutes into the game when junior forward Jatarie White put the Wildcats on notice by scoring the opening four Texas points and snagging two offensive rebounds.
Kansas State head coach Jeff Mittie countered, quickly subbing senior forward Kaylee Page out for 6-foot-4-inch freshman center Mary Lakes. The increase in size proved effective as White went silent for the remainder of the quarter, failing to score another point.
The second adjustment came after the Longhorns (20–4, 11–2 Big 12) implemented a full-court press midway through the first — the same press that forced Kansas State into 19 turnovers when the two teams previously faced off on Jan. 7.
This time, the Wildcats kept their cool, repeatedly breaking the press and extending their range for a banquet of open threes. Kansas State made the Longhorns pay, shooting 3-of-4 from deep as Texas ended the first quarter with a hard-earned 23-21 lead.
“We got a little undisciplined,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said. “We fouled and didn’t always get back in transition, so I thought that allowed (Kansas State) to make a lot of plays.”
TEXAN SPORTS LIVE POST GAME SHOW: Texas vs. Kansas State https://t.co/mvr07w26zf— Daily Texan Sports (@texansports) February 11, 2018
The Wildcats intensified the pressure in the second quarter, this time focusing on Texas’ attack in the paint. Kansas State forced the Longhorns to change their bruising style of play, using a 2-3 zone that dared them to shoot from deep instead.
The Longhorns failed to take advantage, shooting an abysmal 1-of-5 from long range as they clung to a 27-25 lead with 7:17 left before halftime.
With Texas’ starting lineup struggling to generate offense, Aston made an adjustment of her own, calling sophomore guard Alecia Sutton off the bench for a spark.
The move paid off as the St. Louis native scored four points, including a buzzer-beating 2-point pull-up before the half that capped off a 12-5 Longhorn run and gave Texas a 39-30 lead.
“I just felt like it brought the energy up after I made that shot,” Sutton said. “We were kind of dead in the first half, so I just wanted to give some energy to the team.”
With the game still up for grabs, Texas found its saving grace in senior Brooke McCarty. The shifty 5-foot-4-inch guard, who’d been contained to just four points in the first half, finally broke free in the third quarter.
McCarty exposed the Wildcats’ defense, igniting a personal 10-0 run as the Longhorns blew open a 60-41 lead with 3:30 left in the third quarter. For the first time all night, Kansas State didn’t have an answer.
Texas rallied around its senior leader as the Longhorns entered the final quarter of play with an imposing 66-44 lead.
“I just fed off my teammates,” McCarty said. “I tried to get them the ball, but when I was open they got me the ball and I just took advantage of what the defense gave me.”
The fourth quarter was merely a formality as Texas put the finishing touches on a 22-point win. McCarty finished the night with a team-high 17 points.
Sophomore forward Joyner Holmes also excelled, after senior forward Audrey-Ann Caron-Goudreau was sidelined by a left wrist injury in the second quarter. Holmes scored 11 points and added seven rebounds. The Cedar Hill native could see more minutes in the future, should Caron-Goudreau miss some time with the injury.
“I think I can contribute in whatever way my team needs,” Holmes said. “It’ll be tough, but I think I can fill her role as best as I can.”
The victory marked Texas’ fifth-straight season with at least 20 wins. The Longhorns have little time for celebration, though, as they now shift their focus to a home game against Texas Tech on Wednesday at 7 p.m.