Atkins and No. 2 Texas pound McNeese State, 100-34
By JIM VERTUNO
Nov. 15, 2017
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Tougher games are on the horizon for the No. 2 Texas Longhorns. For now, they're happy to have some fun and fine-tune for the future.
Ariel Atkins scored 23 points and Texas made eight 3-pointers in the first half in a 100-34 romp over McNeese State on Wednesday, the Longhorns' second blowout win of the early season.
"If you want to be a championship-quality team you have to have championship-quality effort no matter the opponent," said Texas associate head coach Tina Thompson, who attended the post-game news conference as head coach Karen Aston left on a recruiting trip.
Aston already has a roster loaded with 10 former high school All-Americans, and all that talent was too much for McNeese State.
Texas (2-0) overwhelmed the Cowgirls (1-1) from the opening tip with a trapping defense that forced turnovers and put the game in the fast-tempo transition the Longhorns wanted. Texas forced 11 turnovers in the first quarter and turned them into 19 points and made five 3-pointers in bolting to a 32-8 lead. Atkins made the game's first basket on a 3-pointer from the corner and finished the quarter with eight points.
Texas' 32 points was one shy of the school record for most in a quarter, a mark set just four days earlier in a season-opening win over Stetson.
McNeese could do nothing to slow the onslaught. The Cowgirls were just 4 of 26 shooting as Texas kept building its lead to 58-14 by halftime. Atkins outscored McNeese by herself with 15 points on 5 of 5 shooting, including three 3-pointers in the half.
The Texas record for points in a half is 69, set against Centenary in 2000. Texas reached the 100-point mark for the first time since the 2013-2014 season against Sam Houston State.
"Their tempo is so tough, their length is so tough," McNeese State coach Kacie Cryer said. "They are very deep this year. They don't lose a step when they go to their bench."
Texas will face its first Power Five conference competition next week against LSU and Washington in a tournament in Las Vegas. Then come games against Georgia, No. 13 Tennessee and No. 17 Florida State before Christmas. These early games are the buildup to that stretch, which could show just how far the Longhorns could go this season.
"We're not focused on anybody else's expectations of us," Atkins said. "If we get too tied into that ... we need to stay focused on ourselves and stay in our own circle."
McNeese State: The Cowgirls get to drop back down to their level of competition for about a month, but they could get a taste of this sort of blowout again when they face No. 3 Baylor on Dec. 13. The Cowgirls struggled to contain Texas' speed on both ends of the court, whether trying to break the press or slowing down the Longhorns once the fast breaks started.
Texas: The Longhorns got valuable minutes for players who will be needed when the tougher games start. The frontcourt is still an experiment until suspended sophomore Joyner Holmes returns in late December, and the Longhorns outscored the Cowgirls 54-10 in the paint. Junior forward Jordan Hosey scored eight points on 4 of 5 shooting.
Texas ranked last in the Big 12 in 3-pointers made last season with 137. The Longhorns have 15 through two games this season. The eight made in the first half tied Texas' team high in any game last season. That kind of shooting won't allow opponents to the defense under the basket.
"It's something we worked on a lot this summer. We didn't like the way people were able to take us out of our game last season," Atkins said. "I think that will change this year."
McNeese State hosts LSU-Alexandria on Sunday.
Texas hosts Texas-San Antonio on Friday.