From the outset, the play looked ordinary, routine even.
A post feed from a double-teamed Joyner Holmes set up a layup for senior Kelsey Lang, who calmly jogged back down the court afterwards with her index finger raised in subdued celebration. But the everyday nature of the play belied the milestone it represented.
With the layup against Kansas State on Saturday night, Lang became the latest Longhorn to score over 1,000 career points. She is just the 41st player in school history to surpass that mark.
"It means a lot," Lang said. "There are only a handful of people who have done it here, so I think that it's fantastic. It feels great to be in the books with them."
Lang didn't stop with one edit to the record books. Her five blocks on the night moved her into seventh place on Texas' all-time career blocks list. She's recorded a total of 160 denials during her time in Austin.
At the time of Lang's milestone shot, Texas had allowed the Wildcats to score the first eight points of the second half and trailed by seven, 34-27. Lang said she knew going into the game that she was close to 1,000 points – she finished the night with 10 points and nine rebounds, even though she only needed eight to reach the mark – but the tight score prevented her from realizing her achievement.
"I had no idea," Lang said. "I knew before the game that I needed eight more points, but the game was pretty close. I wasn't thinking about that."
Lang's shot turned the tide, igniting a 14-0 Texas run to reclaim a 41-34 Longhorn advantage. Texas did not fall behind for the remainder of the game and emerged from the contest with a 63-58 victory.
With the graduation of star center Imani Boyette after last season, Lang has shouldered much of the responsibility in the paint for the Longhorns this season. But with Lang's combination of leadership and playmaking abilities, head coach Karen Aston said she sometimes has to remind herself that the 6'5" center isn't in fact a point guard.
"I'm just really proud of Kelsey's career and her journey," Aston said. "She's a model student first and foremost, but she's also grown into a really solid basketball player. It just seems like we're so much calmer when Kelsey's on the floor, and a lot of it is her experience and her understanding of the game."
Aston and Lang are quick to describe her career at Texas as a series of peaks and valleys. After spending most of her freshman year adjusting to the fast pace of college play, Lang emerged as the leading scorer and rebounder for the Longhorns in her sophomore campaign, earning All-Big 12 Second Team honors along the way. But she struggled to follow up on her breakout season, averaging just 6.5 points per game and 4.5 rebounds per game in her junior year.
This year, Lang has returned to form, averaging 11.2 points per game and 8.9 rebounds per game over her last 18 appearances. Lang said growing up during her time at Texas has allowed her to flourish in her final year.
"I just think I'm more comfortable," Lang said. "I have had those highs and lows and I'm just in a place where I'm mentally and physically in shape. I think my teammates and coaches have done a tremendous job helping me through if I do have a down game or I do have a bad practice along the way."
Lang attributes part of her current success to the knowledge that her playing days at Texas are numbered. She plans to graduate in May with a degree in economics and a minor in business.
"You don't really think there's an end until it actually starts approaching," Lang said. "Now we're in the second half of conference play and it's like, 'Whoa, only so many more games are guaranteed.' I just have had such a rollercoaster career here that I just really wanted to end on a high and just help my team in whatever way I can."
Lang isn't one to spend much time dwelling on her individual achievements. A road matchup with No. 2/2 Baylor looms on Monday as the Longhorns look to add another victory to their current 16-game winning streak. She said she plans on saving that kind of personal reflection for after her final game.
"I'm kind of on to the next one," Lang said. "But I'm positive once the year is over I'll look back on games like these and think, 'Wow, that was a pretty great accomplishment.'"
(article by: James Rodriguez, Texas Media Relations)