The University of Texas’ eighth-ranked Longhorns disposed of the University of Maine’s youthful Black Bears in their NCAA Tournament opener Saturday night.
Texas, the second seed, out-rebounded UMaine 25-4 in the first half and shot a blistering 67.9 percent from the floor, including a 5-for-7 showing (71.4 percent) from behind the three-point arc, to build a 27-point halftime lead and the Longhorns cruised to an 83-54 victory at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.
The 15th-seeded Black Bears, making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2004, were simply no match for the Longhorns, who used 9-0 and 10-0 runs in the first half to build a comfortable 45-18 lead.
Texas, now 27-6, will take on seventh seed Arizona State (22-12) on Monday in Austin.
UMaine wound up 23-10 after having its six-game winning streak ended.
“Credit to Texas. That’s a really, really good basketball team,” UMaine coach Amy Vachon said. “They shot the ball really, really well, and when they missed, they got their offensive rebounds in the first half. I hope they go really, really far in this tournament. They’re a class staff and a class team.”
“It wasn’t the way we wanted to end it, but I’ll take these 13 kids any day,” Vachon said. “I’m proud of how hard they compete and how much they grew this year. Our kids never gave up. We have to learn from this experience.”
Texas wound up out-rebounding UMaine by a whopping 43-12 margin, including 10 offensive rebounds. The Longhorns also shot 61.8 percent from the floor (34-for-55) and 75 percent beyond the three-point arc (6-for-8).
Six-foot-4 junior forward Jatarie White scored a game-high 17 points thanks to a 7-for-10 shooting performance from the floor to pace the Longhorns. She also had three rebounds and two assists.
Senior guard Ariel Atkins netted 16 points to go with four rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Junior guard Lashann Higgs contributed 15 points, three assists, two steals and two rebounds.
Atkins shot 7-for-8 from the floor, while Higgs was 6-for-7.
Six-foot-3 sophomore Joyner Holmes had nine points and seven rebounds along with four assists, and third team All-American senior guard Brooke McCarty had seven points and seven rebounds. Alecia Sutton chipped in with seven points and three rebounds, and Chasity Patterson provided five points and five rebounds.
Junior guard Tanesha Sutton’s 16 points led the Black Bears. She also had three assists and two steals. Sutton, UMaine’s leading rebounder who was averaging 7.1 per game, was held without a rebound.
Sophomore guard Julie Brosseau had 11 points and two assists, but leading scorer Blanca Millan was held to just seven points, ending her streak of consecutive games with 10 or more points at 31. Millan entered the game averaging 17.8 points per game.
Millan, who shot just 3-for-13 from the floor, did have two steals and two rebounds and blocked a shot.
Sophomore forward Fanny Wadling had six points and a team-high three rebounds. She also had a steal.
Millan and Wadling were UMaine’s tallest starters at 6-foot-1.
Van Buren’s Parise Rossignol and Calais’ Maddy McVicar had five points apiece off the bench, and Kirsten Johnson, UMaine’s only senior, concluded her career with four points and two rebounds.
UMaine shot just 36.4 percent from the floor (20-for-55) and a dismal 15.8 percent from beyond the three-point arc (3-for-19).
Brosseau said it took them a while to adjust “because they were very big and we aren’t used to playing that type of athleticism in our conference [America East].”
The Black Bears were well-prepared for the game, “but we just weren’t really boxing out. We weren’t putting enough effort in during the first half,” UMaine’s Sutton said.
The Longhorns had seven layups in the first half as they were often able to drive the lane past the slower Black Bears.
Meanwhile, the Black Bears were just 7-for-27 from the floor (25.9 percent) and 1-for-8 behind the three-point arc (12.5 percent).
“I was really pleased with how we started the game and how we played the entire first half,” Texas coach Karen Aston said. “I thought our team was very locked in.”
Higgs, Atkins and White each went 4-for-5 from the floor in the first half as Higgs finished with 11 points, Atkins had 10 and White scored eight points. Atkins hit two of her three three-point attempts, and Higgs nailed one of her two tries.
Holmes contributed seven rebounds, three assists and four points.
Wadling had all six of her points in the first half, while Sutton and Brosseau had five apiece.
Millan had the other two but was just 1-for-8 from the floor and missed all four of her three-point attempts.
Texas used a short jumper by White and a three-pointer by Atkins to build an 8-2 lead and closed out the first quarter with a 9-0 run to build a 23-8 advantage.
Holmes started the 9-0 flurry with a short jumper and she then fed Sutton for a three-pointer.
Higgs’ layup with 1:55 left in the quarter and her jumper 49 seconds later capped the run.
UMaine missed its last six field goal attempts in the quarter.
Wadling’s lay-up and Sutton’s three-pointer sandwiched a Jordan Hosey layup to pull UMaine within 12, but that was as close as the Black Bears were to get as Texas rattled off the next 10 points.
White had six points during the 10-0 run, Atkins had a layup and Higgs had a pair of free throws.
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