Size, speed and power. Texas had way too much of everything for Central Arkansas to handle.
Brooke McCarty scored 15 points and the No. 3-seed Longhorns overwhelmed the No. 14 Sugar Bears in the first half before cruising to a 78-50 victory Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Joyner Holmes added 12 points and nine rebounds for the Longhorns (23-8).
Texas came in needing something good to happen after losing four of its final six in the regular season, a disappointing finish after the Longhorns challenged for the Big 12 title. A rousing rout at home could be just the thing that gets them ready for another deep run into the NCAA Tournament after making it to the regional final in 2016.
“I was very pleased with our tempo in the first half and our intensity and attention to detail,” Texas coach Karen Aston said.
The Longhorns leaned on their considerable athletic advantages from the opening tip. Texas stormed to 24-4 lead by end the end of the first quarter and led 48-20 by halftime.
Everything Texas did early worked. With McCarty’s bursts of speed running the ball up court, and a dominant front line posting up for easy baskets, Texas shot 63 percent in the first half and swamped the Sugar Bears for the rebounds on the few times they did miss. McCarty, the Big 12 player of the year, was the catalyst, leading the Longhorns’ transition attack and making three 3-pointers.
Maggie Proffitt scored 17 for Central Arkansas (26-5). The Sugar Bears cut the Texas lead under 20 by the end of the third but couldn’t make a run to seriously threaten the Texas lead down the stretch.
Texas was so dominant in the post the Longhorns won the rebounding 55-23 and outscored the Sugar Bears 40-18 in the paint.
“We were sending five to the boards and they were still able to get the rebound,” Proffitt said. “They are bigger, faster, stronger, and they were maybe a little more of all of those than we even expected.”
Texas got a physical mismatch in the first round they won’t get the rest of the tournament. And building the big early lead let coach Aston keep a steady rotation of fresh legs attacking the Sugar Bears at the basket. Texas played its entire roster and everyone got at least 11 minutes on the court.
Central Arkansas got their NCAA bid by winning the Southland Conference tournament and coach Sandra Rushing hoped her players wouldn’t be intimidated by playing the Longhorns on their home court. Nerves may not have played a role at all. The Sugar Bears have only two players taller than 6-feet while Texas has six who are 6-3 or taller.
“I wouldn’t mind sitting in the stands and watching (Texas),” Rushing said. “It wasn’t very pleasant on the side over there on the bench.”
THIRD QUARTER LULL
As dominant as Texas was, Aston didn’t like the third quarter when the Longhorns were outscored 23-14, had a rash of turnovers and seemed disinterested after building the big lead.
“We do understand that’s probably not something that can happen again for us to advance any farther than where we are,” Aston said.
VISIT FROM MACK
Texas got a pre-game locker room visit and pep talk from former Longhorns football coach Mack Brown, who won the 2005 season national championship. Brown showed the team his diamond studied championship ring.
“It is pretty,” Aston said. “Really pretty and shiny.”
Texas plays No. 6-seed North Carolina State on Sunday.