SAN MARCOS, Texas — It had been a full two seasons since the Texas women's basketball team had earned a win in the NCAA Tournament, but that skid was snapped on Monday evening. The No. 6-seeded Longhorns rolled over No. 11 seed Bradley, the Missouri Valley Conference champions, 81-62, at the Strahan Arena at the University Events Center on the campus of Texas State University.
"It makes my heart feel good to see them," Texas head coach Vic Schaefer said of his players after the game. "They're excited about winning and I'm excited about them winning. It is hard to win in the NCAA Tournament. They beat a champion tonight — a Missouri Valley Conference Champion."
Texas forward/center Charli Collier led Texas (19-9 overall, 11-7 in Big 12 games) on both ends of the floor, with 23 points and 15 rebounds, to help give Texas a 44-35 edge on the glass. Collier responded with poise and class despite jeers Schaefer called "classless" from the Bradley faithful.
With about seven minutes in the fourth quarter, a group of Braves fans began chanting "overrated" towards Collier, as the junior stood at the free throw line. Collier responded by swishing a free throw and then blocking a Bradley layup on the Braves' subsequent possession.
"Let me just say this, that chanting, that's a crock [of] you know what," Schaefer said. "I heard that in our Big 12 Tournament semifinal game. That's about as classless as an adult could be, to a young person playing a game. These aren't pros. You ain't paying 100 dollars to come to these games.
"These kids are not asking for that. They're good. That's your answer to someone being good? She's not just good, she's great."
Collier was one of four Longhorns who scored in double figures: guard Audrey Warren tallied 19, guard Joanne Allen-Taylor had 12 — nine came on 3-of-6 shooting from behind the three-point line — and guard Ashley Chevalier added 10.
The Longhorns struggled offensively in the first quarter, beginning the contest shooting just 1-of-11 from the field. The inability to convert on offense added to the immense role the full-court pressing defense played in keeping Bradley in check, as the Braves turned the ball over seven times in the opening quarter.
"We didn't force as many turnovers, but they didn't throw it around much," Schaefer said of the UT defense. "For us, that's the big number in my mind. I thought our guards did a good job of attacking. We've got to keep that attacking mentality.
"We really had a lot of energy in the press. I'm just really proud of how hard we played. In this tournament, you better pin your ears back and play with your hair on fire. We did that tonight."
Texas' first bucket of the game came on a layup from forward Audrey Warren at the the 7:45 mark, and gave way to a 6-0 Longhorn lead. Bradley (which ended its season with a 17-12 overall record, including a 10-8 mark in games against Missouri Valley Conference foes) quickly countered and took a 7-6 lead with 4:10 to go in the quarter, but the Longhorn offense roared to life, closing out the period on a 13-0 run. Texas scored eight points in the final minute of the first, as Collier hit a jumper and three-pointer with a three-pointer by guard Joanne Allen-Taylor sandwiched in between.
"It gave us a lot of juice, a lot of energy," Collier said of the 13-0 run. "We had to keep that momentum going forward and not slack up. It's all about consistency."
UT's offensive consistency continued in the second quarter, as the Horns stretched their run into a 19-2 spurt to claim a commanding 23-9 lead on a layup by Collier. Texas led by as many as 20 points before Bradley scored eight of the final 10 points in the quarter. Texas led, 44-30, at halftime.
Holding a 65-51 lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Texas left nothing to chance after giving up two early fast-break layups in the first three minutes of the period. Collier ignited a 10-2 run midway through, scoring seven of the points.
Bradley guard Lasha Petree did her best to keep Bradley in the fight, scoring five of the Braves' last seven points, and leading all scorers with 33, but it was not enough. All 10 active Texas players saw time on the floor, as the Longhorns widened the margin to 20 on two occasions in the fourth.
The victory sets up a second-round meeting between Texas and No. 3 seed UCLA Wednesday night, with a location and time to be determined. The Bruins improved to 17-5 after defeating Wyoming, 69-45, Monday night.
"We got a big task in front of us on Wednesday, but we're excited about that opportunity," Schaefer said. "Our kids will be ready. This is what it's all about."