Atkins leads No. 7 past Kansas 79-62
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) There were times during senior Ariel Atkins’ first three seasons at Texas when she played so hard that it was counter-productive, resulting in too many fouls and other mistakes.
“Shot out of a cannon,” her coach, Karen Aston said. “I think most of the time it’s out of wanting to win so much. She’s beginning the realize she can’t control everything.”
Atkins did control the pivotal third quarter Saturday, scoring 10 of her 22 points and No. 7 Texas overcame a challenge by unranked Kansas to win 79-62.
The 5-foot-11 Atkins also grabbed nine rebounds and had a career-best six steals, enabling Texas to maneuver from two points down at halftime to 14 ahead in the third quarter en route to its 11th straight victory against Kansas.
“Ariel was terrific the entire game,” Aston said. “She’s really in a good, calm flow.”
Atkins said she has adapted to the requirements for success.
“I just realized it’s a game,” she said. “It’s supposed to be fun. No need to be overzealous.”
Lashann Higgs added 17 points for Texas (14-2, 5-1 Big 12). Sophomore Sug Sutton, making her third start at Texas, scored a career-best 14.
Junior Christalah Lyons led Kansas (11-6, 2-4) with 20 points. Brianna Osorio had 13 points and eight rebounds for the Jayhawks. Kansas hurt itself with 22 turnovers. Even so, the Jayhawks trailed by just five early in the fourth quarter after a 3-pointer by Osorio.
Texas trailed 31-29 at halftime after shooting an anemic 35.3 percent while committing 10 turnovers.
The Longhorns dominated the offensive boards in the second half, turning 17 – Joyner Holmes and Jatarie White combined for 11 — into 20 second-chance points. Kansas coach Brandon Schneider said it hurt that 6-5 freshman Bailey Helgren was in foul trouble; she played just six minutes in the half, fouling out midway through the fourth quarter with Kansas trailing by nine. Helgren averages just 2.4 rebounds, but Schneider said the Jayhawks missed her presence.
“The difference in the game was the glass in the second half when Helgren got into foul trouble,” Schneider said. “Jatarie White and Joyner Holmes, that’s when they really went to work on the offensive boards.”
Kansas: The Jayhawks shot 42.6 percent, improvement from their previous two games, also against ranked teams. They lost to No. 5 Baylor by 35 points and No. 15 West Virginia by 20, both games at home, before coming to Austin. They shot just 28.6 percent against Baylor and 35.2 against West Virginia, no surprise considering they rank 199th nationally in field-goal percentage offense. (Their strength is at the other end, where they rank 14th in field goal defense.)
Texas: The Longhorns won despite continued poor shooting from Brooke McCarty, a senior guard who missed seven of eight shots from the field goal, including all four of her 3-point attempts. McCarty, the reigning Big 12 player of the year, converted a sizzling 43.9 percent of her 3-point attempts in nine non-conference games. She more than cooled down against Big 12 competition, hitting 4 of 27 (14.8 percent) in the Longhorns’ first six games. McCarty did have 11 assists against no turnovers during a loss at TCU on Wednesday. But she was scoreless until midway through the third quarter against Kansas and finished with three points.
“I definitely think she’s healthy, it’s just that sometimes shooters go through slumps,” Aston said. “I guess you could call that. There are shots that were makeable in the last couple of games that she’s missed. That’s shocking to everyone because everybody is so accustomed to the majority of her shots going in.”
Holmes, an all-Big 12 player and conference freshman of the year last season, was suspended from school for the first semester this season for an unspecified university rules violation. Her 11 points and nine rebounds against Kansas were significant improvement from the seven points and 12 rebounds she totaled in five games since returning.
“As I’ve said — it sounds like a broken record — it’s gonna take time,” Aston said. “Every day I would imagine will feel better for her, and for us.”
Kansas hosts Texas Tech on Wednesday. The Jayhawks and Red Raiders split two games last season, each winning at home.
Texas hosts No. 1 Connecticut on Monday. The Longhorns are 0-8 all-time against the Huskies, losing three times over the last three seasons by 51, 21 and 18 points.