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Game preview: No. 8 women’s basketball faces No. 9 UCLA


(Sourced from texassports.com)

No. 8/8 Texas Longhorns Basketball (28-6) vs. No. 9/9 UCLA Bruins (26-7)
NCAA Regional Semifinal

Time: Friday, March 23, 2018 | 8:30 p.m. CT
Location: Kansas City, Mo. | Sprint Center (18,972)
TV: ESPN2 (Pam Ward, Gail Goestenkors, Courtney Lyle)
Radio: 105.3 FM (Craig Way, Fran Harris)

Game NotesGet Acrobat Reader | Live Stats | Live Audio

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The No. 8-ranked and second-seeded Texas women's basketball team makes its fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 appearance Friday when it faces No. 9 and third-seeded UCLA at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. Tip-off is slated for 8:30 p.m. CT and the game will be televised nationally by ESPN2.

The Longhorns (28-6) advanced to the NCAA Regional Semifinals with an 83-54 victory against 15th-seeded Maine in the NCAA first round and an 85-65 victory against seventh-seeded Arizona State in the NCAA second round.

Texas is making its 31st appearance in the NCAA Tournament, the fourth-highest total by any program in NCAA history. The Longhorns are one of just five programs to make 30 or more NCAA Tournament appearances all time. Texas is 42-29 (.592) all-time in NCAA Tournament play, including 10-4 under head coach Karen Aston.

Texas and UCLA meet for the 13th time in the history of the two programs. The all-time series is knotted 6-6. The Longhorns have won the past two meetings between the two teams, including a 72-64 victory in the 2016 NCAA Regional Semifinals in Bridgeport, Conn. Texas is 59-29 (.670) all-time vs. teams in the current alignment of the Pac-12 Conference.

"The matchup with UCLA is one that we're really looking forward to," Aston said. "We're familiar with each other. They not only played against each other in maybe the summer circuit, some were at the USA Trials together this summer and then we've played them. The other common denominator is that both teams have two seniors that have played at a really high level all year long. Great leaders and players that are playing with a sense of urgency that they don't want the season to end. It should be an interesting game. I think it will be a very entertaining game."

Texas is led by seniors Ariel Atkins and Brooke McCarty. The duo holds a record of 108-31 (.777) since the two first stepped foot on the court for the Longhorns at the beginning of the 2014-15 campaign. The two have led Texas to four NCAA Tournament appearances, four NCAA Sweet 16 showings and one NCAA Elite Eight appearance.

Atkins has started all 34 games for the Longhorns this season and leads her team with 14.8 points per game and 2.6 steals per game. She has scored in double figures 28 times this season, including seven 20-plus point performances. She is the only player in the Big 12 Conference to rank in the league's top-20 in the eight statistical categories of points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game, steals per game, assist-to-turnover ratio, field-goal percentage, three-point field-goal percentage and free-throw percentage. Atkins is second in the Big 12 in steals per game (2.6) and free-throw percentage (.859).

McCarty has started all 33 games she has played for the Longhorns this season, leading the Big 12 Conference in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.5. She is the team's second-leading scorer with 13.7 points per game and is dishing out a squad-best 4.4 assists per game. McCarty has played a team-high 31.7 minutes per game this season. She has scored in double figures 24 times this season and has notched three double-doubles on the year.  McCarty leads her team in free-throw percentage at 88.9 percent and has connected on a team-high 62 three-pointers.

Junior guard Lashann Higgs follows with 13.1 points per game, while junior forward Jatarie White adds 10.6 points per game and 5.9 rebounds per game. Sophomore guard/forward Joyner Holmes is averaging a squad-best 6.0 rebounds per game to complement 6.8 points per game.

Texas has held the rebounding edge in 29 of 34 games this season and 89 times in the last 104 games. The Longhorns rank second nationally in rebound margin at +11.4 and are 10th in the nation in rebounds per game at 42.91. Texas' rebounding average currently ranks tied for ninth on the school's single-season rebounds per game list at 42.9 boards per game.

The Bruins enter Friday's game with a 26-7 overall record. They defeated American 71-60 in the NCAA first round and Creighton 86-64 in the NCAA second round. UCLA is led by a pair of first-team All-Pac-12 Conference selections in senior forward Monique Billings and senior guard Jordin Canada. Canada was the 2018 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. Canada and Billings each ranked in the top-10 in the Pac-12 in points per game with 16.7 and 15.3 respectively. Billings also led the Pac-12 in rebounds per game at 9.7, while Canada ranks No. 9 nationally in steals with 106 on the year.

QUICK NOTES

Texas women's basketball is in the midst of its 44th season of intercollegiate basketball.

Texas ranks fifth all-time in NCAA history with 1,065 all-time victories.

The Longhorns have made 31 all-time NCAA Tournament appearances, which is fourth-most of any NCAA D-I Women's Basketball program.

Aston is 142-61 (.700) now in her sixth season at the helm of the Longhorns. Her victories total trails only Jody Conradt's 783.

This year's Texas team tied the school record for most Big 12 wins in a season at 15. The 2002-03, 2015-16 and 2016-17 squads also posted 15 Big 12 victories.

Texas has advanced to its fourth consecutive NCAA Sweet 16. It marks the first time to accomplish that feat since eight consecutive NCAA Regional Semifinal appearances from 1983-90.

Since the start of the 2015-16 season, Texas has earned 19 wins against foes ranked in the Associated Press top 25. The Longhorns are 5-5 against AP top 25 teams this season.

Dating back to the start of the 2015-16 season, the Longhorns have won the rebound battle in 89 of 104 total games. Texas has held the edge on the boards in 29 of 34 games this season and ranks second nationally in rebound margin (+11.4). The Longhorns are averaging 42.91 rebounds per game, which ranks 19th nationally.

UT's rebounding margin of +11.4 ranks second in program history. The school record for rebound margin in a single season is +12.3 (1986-87).

Texas ranks 14th nationally in scoring offense (80.9 ppg) and 10th in scoring margin (+17.4).

Three Texas players have played in 100 or more career games: McCarty (138), Atkins (120) and Higgs (102).

McCarty has 243 career three-pointers made, which ranks second all-time in program history. She is one of only four players in school annals to make 200 or more career threes.

McCarty ranks fourth in program history in three-point percentage at 39.9 percent (243-of-609). Just three players in program history ( Jamie Carey, Kathleen Nash and Vicki Hall) have shot better than 40 percent from beyond the arc for their careers. Carey is the school's all-time three-point field goal percentage leader at 41.8 percent.

McCarty is the program's all-time career leader in total minutes played with 4,127. She is the first player in program history to eclipse the 4,000 minutes played mark.

McCarty leads the Big 12 Conference and is 23rd nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.54.

Atkins ranks fourth in program history in free-throw percentage with a 83.1 percent clip (276-of-332).

Atkins ranks 43rd nationally and second in the Big 12 in steals per game at 2.56.

Atkins ranks 44th nationally in field-goal percentage at 53.2 percent.

Digital Editor for and article junkie for Horns Illustrated. Father of 4. Heisman Trophy winner winner.   Follow me on Twitter at @GoGoGonzilla .