AUSTIN, Texas — Deep into the fourth quarter and leading by 30 points, No. 8 Texas was still applying full-court pressure to No. 22 TCU, turning the ball over for more easy baskets.
Perhaps still stinging from an upset loss at TCU a few weeks ago, the Longhorns seemed to be sending the message that the balance of power in the Big 12 hasn’t turned yet.
Ariel Atkins and Brooke McCarty each scored 16 points as Texas cruised to a 92-65 win Saturday. It gave the Longhorns sole possession of second place in the league and kept them within striking distance of conference leader Baylor.
“I thought our team was pretty special today, in a lot of ways. Lots of energy,” Texas coach Karen Aston said.
That energy exploded in the first quarter when Texas raced to a 27-4 lead that swamped the Horned Frogs and never let them back in the game. Atkins made three early 3-pointers and Texas’ swarming pressure defense forced seven turnovers in the first period. The Longhorns also blocked seven shots in the first half.
“This is a conference if you aren’t ready to go, it can get out of reach really quick,” TCU coach Raegen Pebley said. “The same kind of thing happened to Texas at Baylor where it got out of hand quick. That happened to us today.”
Texas led 50-24 at halftime and stretched the lead as high as 36 in the third quarter, even as Aston emptied her bench and used multiple lineups on the court. McCarty scored in double figures for the fourth time in six games and last season’s Big 12 player of the year seems to have fully shaken off a mid-season slump that saw her scoring nearly disappear.
Texas outrebounded TCU 44-28 and scored 21 points off of TCU turnovers. In the first matchup, TCU made 9 of 11 3-pointers, but was 5-of-19 Saturday.
“We knew if we came out and played hard on defense, we would get those stops. We fed off that,” McCarty said.
Lauren Heard scored 18 points for TCU (16-6, 7-4), which hasn’t beaten a ranked opponent on the road since 2008.
TCU had been the surprise of the conference with a seven-game win streak that pushed the Horned Frogs toward the top of the Big 12 in a season they’re weren’t expected to be a contender. A second win over Texas would have put them right behind Baylor, but the moment may have simply been too big. The Horned Frogs were 1 of 13 shooting in the first quarter and never had a chance to make a game of it. TCU hasn’t beaten a ranked opponent on the road since 2008.
Texas got some key minutes for some frontcourt players that could prove valuable over the back half of the Big 12 season and into the NCAA tournament. Forward Rella Boothe, who had missed eight games while suspended, scored nine points. Joyner Holmes, who had been suspended and out of school until late December, continues to work herself into shape and scored 10. Together, they were 8 of 15 shooting.
“What (Boothe) can give you immediately is offensive presence,” Aston said. “That will be helpful to just have somebody who can put the ball in the hole.”
EYE ON THE BIG 12
The earlier loss to TCU still looms big in the Big 12 title chase. Texas has already lost its first matchup with Baylor. Texas gets its home rematch on Feb. 19 but will need Baylor to falter somewhere else if the Longhorns hope to snatch at least a share of first place.
INSIDE THE BOX SCORE
Texas had 13 turnovers Saturday, which tied for its lowest mark of the season. No Longhorn had more than three against the Horned Frogs.
TCU hosts No. 23 Oklahoma State on Wednesday.
Texas plays at No. 21 West Virginia on Monday.