AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — As Brooke McCarty runs, so does Texas. The diminutive senior guard has the Longhorns racing back into the Sweet 16.
McCarty scored 15 points and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds, and Lashann Higgs scored 19 points as Texas booked its fourth consecutive trip to the Sweet 16 Monday night with an 85-65 win over Arizona State in the women’s NCAA Tournament.
“This is where Texas should be every single year,” McCarty said.
Higgs scored 15 in the first half, and McCarty took over in the third quarter with 10 points in a 14-2 run that pushed the Longhorns to a big lead and never let the Sun Devils recover. McCarty had a pair of 3-pointers in the run and her nifty drives and assists made sure the No. 2-seed Longhorns (28-6) avoided the same kind of home court upsets that hit several host teams earlier in the evening.
“It was Brooke. I started smiling halfway through it because I realized this kid was going off,” said Texas senior guard Ariel Atkins, who scored 12 and matched McCarty’s five assists.
The No. 7-seed Sun Devils had played eventual national champion South Carolina within a minute of a huge upset in the second round last season, but saw any hopes of catching the Longhorns disappear in the decisive third quarter.
McCarty, even at just 5-foot-4 and the smallest player on the court, was able to snag long rebounds and use them to kick-start Texas in transition. The Longhorns are one of the top rebounding teams in the country and dominated the Sun Devils on the boards 40-19 in a physical matchup.
“Our whole game plan was, ‘Don’t give them points in the paint …We knew from the opening tip, their whole game plan was rip and go on us,” Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne said. “We weren’t tough enough.”
Kianna Ibis scored 27 to lead Arizona State (22-13), an effort that kept the Sun Devils within 40-35 at halftime. She scored just eight over the final two quarters.
Texas hosted the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive year. The Longhorns are 48-6 at the Frank Erwin Center over the last three seasons, including six wins in the tournament.
The Longhorns’ fourth year in the Sweet 16 continues a resurgence for a program that produced the first women’s undefeated national champion in the 1985-86 season. Texas hasn’t been back to the Final Four since 2003.
“You can tell they expect this,” Texas coach Karen Aston said. “I know they want bigger and better things but this is a great accomplishment. I told them in the locker room not to take this for granted.”
Arizona State: The Sun Devils had the best defense in the Pac 12 this season, holding opponents to 12 points or less in a quarter 51 times. Texas shredded the Sun Devils in every quarter. Higgs carved them up with eight of Texas’ 22 points in the first quarter before McCarty sparked the 25-point burst in the third.
“They are really fast,” Ibis said of Texas’ backcourt. “They are really crafty players.”
Texas: McCarty and Higgs drive Texas, but the Longhorns will be looking for more from forwards Joyner Holmes and Jatarie White as they get deeper into the tournament. Those two combined for 20 points and nine rebounds. Texas also got a rare offensive night from seldom-used Olamide Aborowa, who scored nine points in 11 minutes.
BEATEN ON THE BOARDS
Arizona State dominated Nebraska in rebounding in the Sun Devils’ first round victory could get not footing under the basket against the more powerful Longhorns. Junior center Charnea Johnson-Chapman picked up two early fouls and ended up fouling out with just two points and one rebound in 14 minutes.
“They took advantage of their size and kept taking it to us,” Ibis said.
Texas shot 62 percent for the second consecutive game in the tournament. The Longhorns were 37 of 60 shooting against the Sun Devils and took just 10 3-pointers, making three.
Texas will play No. 3 seed UCLA in the Kansas City.