Lady Horns continue dominance
The women got a big victory last Saturday, which featured a monster game from guard Ariel Atkins, who posted a stat line of 22 points, 11 rebounds, with three assists. Texas needed the effort with Haier Achievement Award-winner Imani Boyette (zero points on 0-4 shooting, eight rebounds) held in check.
Boyette won the award recently, which was based on her courageousness in overcoming a turbulent childhood, and becoming a decorated and successful student-athlete. She will be recognized on Feb. 20, before the matchup vs. Baylor on Feb. 29.
Rounding the corner into tournament time, any amateur bracketologist can see the Horns have aligned themselves with those seeking one and two seeds, right there with Connecticut, South Carolina, Baylor, Maryland, and Ohio State. Fortunately, Boyette and co., by earning and grinding out wins, can control their own destiny.
To be clear, a loss is a loss – moral victories do not, and will never, count as actual wins. But managing to hold Oklahoma to only 40% shooting in the Horns' 63-60 Monday night loss was impressive, and bodes well for future dates with other elite offense teams. Kendal Yancy hounded National Player of the Year candidate Buddy Hield into 27 hard-earned points. The Horns brought out the "nasty" Coach Smart's been asking for all season.
The problem was, the Horns also shot 40%, including 26% from three. Shooting only 10 times from the stripe, and hitting just six, didn't help either – to compare, Hield alone made 10 of 11. This lends to a larger issue: The Horns aren't consistently getting easy opportunities for anyone other than Isaiah Taylor. Possessions are often devolving into Taylor scramble-mode isolations. To be fair, it's an excellent, high-percentage play call on teams that switch everything defensively – the ball screen into Taylor working the big/small mismatch. It just can't be the only late-game call.
Perhaps its youth limits progression, but Texas will need to continue its offensive evolution through trial by fire. Looking at the remaining month or so, starting with this Saturday's matchup at No. 14 Iowa State, this gauntlet of a schedule is an arsonist's row, which Texas must withstand.