Big 3rd quarter sends Texas over Alabama State 86-42
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Texas took a surprisingly long time to settle into the comforts of home. Once they did, the Longhorns were off and running over Alabama State.
Ariel Atkins scored 15 points and No. 2 seed Texas used a dominant third quarter on its home court to roll to an 86-42 win over the No. 15 seed Hornets on Saturday night in their NCAA Tournament opener.
Texas raced to a big early lead but defensive lapses and poor shooting let Alabama State hang around longer than the Hornets probably expected. That all changed with a 26-5 Texas run in the third that had the Longhorns cruising into the second round.
''I think it took us a half to calm down from the excitement,'' said Texas coach Karen Aston, who cut short the team's pre-game walk through because she sensed her team's nerves.
''I thought they were going to kill each other going over some simple stuff in shoot-around,'' Aston said.
Empress Davenport scored 13 points for Texas (29-4), which lost a first-round game the last time it hosted the tournament in 2010. This time, the Big 12 runner-up Longhorns shook off the early game miscues to shrug off an Alabama State team that was overmatched at almost every position.
Danielle Clark scored 13 points for Alabama State (19-12).
Texas was in control from the start but it took a while for the game to turn into a rout.
The Longhorns raced to a 17-4 lead as Davenport scored eight but Alabama State refused to let the Longhorns get comfortable. After nearly seven minutes without a basket, the Hornets closed the first quarter with two 3-pointers in the final two minutes to get within 18-13
Alabama State was still within five early in the second before the Longhorns slowly started stretching their lead. Defensively the Longhorns allowed Alabama State several open looks from long range and the Hornets made four 3-pointers, three by Clark.
Texas struggled to find any rhythm offensively in the first half. Starting guards Celina Rodrigo and Brooke McCarty combined for 2 of 11 shooting and Texas led 32-22 after two quarters.
That changed with the big burst to start the third quarter. Rodrigo scored four consecutive points, McCarty swished a 3-pointer from the right wing and Atkins had two baskets to bookend an 11-0 run that pushed the Texas lead to 21 just three minutes into the second half.
Davenport said the Longhorns never worried they were being set up for an epic upset.
''Worried? No. Our team tries to stay calm, identify the problem and eliminate it,'' Davenport said.
The floodgates opened from there as Texas kept pouring it on. Alabama State shot just 22 percent for the game. Texas outrebounded Alabama State 50-29 and outscored the Hornets in the paint 40-4.
''Their guard play really killed us,'' Alabama State coach Freda Freeman-Jackson said. ''They came at us in waves. Atkins, she killed us on the inside and the outside.''
Alabama State: The Hornets hoped 6-foot-2 senior center Jasmine Peeples could give them a strong inside presence against Texas' 6-7 Imani Boyette, the Big 12's co-defensive player of the year. Boyette dominated Peeples, grabbing 10 rebounds and holding her to one point and 0-6 shooting.
Texas: Texas is 20-9 on its home court in NCAA Tournament play since 1983 and is 16-1 at home this season.
Texas' 86 points were third-highest total by the Longhorns this season and the most since mid-December. And it's the most Texas has scored in an NCAA Tournament game since 2004, a span of 16 games.
Alabama State: Season's over.
Texas: Plays Missouri on Monday night.