AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Texas coach Karen Aston believes her team has hit a bit of a lull – and that Ariel Atkins is an exception.
”Ariel doesn’t have lulls,” Aston said.
Atkins had 13 points, seven rebounds and three steals in only 21 minutes and No. 8 Texas beat Northwestern State 68-44 on Wednesday night.
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The senior guard converted all six of her shots from the field for the Longhorns (8-1). Center Jatarie White added 15 points in 19 minutes, and Jada Underwood had 11 points.
Texas led by 10 midway through the second quarter. Then the Longhorns made a 26-5 push that stretched into the third quarter.
Aston said the downturn began about week ago in practice and manifested during an 82-75 loss at then-No. 11 Tennessee on Sunday. That condition won’t work with No. 12 Florida State coming to Austin on Sunday and Big 12 competition set to begin later in December.
”We’ve got to figure out how to flip the switch again and have a little more urgency,” Aston said.
Atkins believes these things tend to happen in December while players are studying for and taking final exams. Younger players seem to be affected most, Atkins said.
”We’re a young team, and unfortunately we don’t know how to bounce back when something kind of hits us,” Atkins said.
Freshman Jha’ne Wheeler led Northwestern State with a season-best 15 points. Wheeler had four 3-point baskets after hitting six in eight games before facing Texas. Nautica Grant scored 10 points.
Texas played without guard Brooke McCarty, the reigning Big 12 player of the year and the Longhorns’ second-leading scorer behind Atkins. McCarty has a lingering left hip injury; she hit 2 of 15 shots against Tennessee. Her status is listed as day-to-day.
Northwestern State (4-5) was without starting guard Jasmyn Johnson. She’s under concussion protocol.
Northwestern State: The Lady Demons are 0-3 against teams from the power-five conferences, losing to Mississippi by 31 points and Oklahoma State by 34 in November. They face another prospective tough one at TCU on Sunday. Coach Jordan Dupuy said those games are just a fact of life for his program because of the payouts it receives as the road team. He also believes the Lady Demons can, and have, learned from these games. For example, a goal was to limite Texas to fewer than 80 points by controlling the tempo. Before Wednesday, the Longhorns averaged 90.8.
”Good implementation of our game plan,” Dupuy said. ”I don’t believe in a lot of moral victories, but there are a lot of positives we can pull from that.”
Texas: Whipping an overmatched Northwestern State team would not seem like a sufficient way for the Longhorns to regain whatever mojo they had before losing to then No. 11 Tennessee 82-75 on Sunday. But the good news for the Longhorns is that they have a legitimate chance for recovery when they play host to No. 12 Florida State on Sunday.
The Longhorns fell from No. 2 to 8 this week after their loss at then-No. 11 Tennessee on Sunday. Their poll position on Monday will largely be determined after they face No. 12 Florida State this coming Sunday.
MORE MISSING PLAYERS
In addition to McCarty, Texas was without Jordan Hosey, a key reserve forward who suffered a concussion against Tennessee. Hosey’s status is listed the same as McCarty day-to-day.
Northwestern State: At TCU on Sunday.
Texas: Hosts No. 12 Florida State on Sunday. The Longhorns beat FSU in double-overtime last season in Tallahassee.