BERKELEY, Calif. -- Junior center Imani McGee-Stafford registered her third consecutive double-double to guide No. 5 seed Texas past No. 12 seed WKU, 66-64, in the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship First Round on Friday afternoon at Haas Pavilion.
McGee-Stafford scored 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting with 15 rebounds in 30 minutes of action as the the Longhorns outscored the Lady Toppers 48-16 in the paint and held a +21 rebounding margin.
Texas (23-10) advances to the second round of NCAA postseason play for the second consecutive season.
Freshman guard Brooke McCarty kept the Longhorns alive late in the game with 10 second-half points, including the two go-ahead free throws that secured UT's 66-64 win. Although McCarty didn't start for the first time since January, her spark and sense of urgency at the point guard position helped Texas limit its turnovers and take advantage of fast break points in her 25 minutes of action off the bench.
Junior guard Brady Sanders added nine points, five rebounds and five assists, marking her eighth game this season with five or more assists.
Texas came out with an early 10-9 lead on six McGee-Stafford points, but as the clock hit the 16-minute mark, neither team scored again for almost six minutes.
Late in the first half, Texas committed four back-to-back turnovers that forced a Longhorn timeout, and the Lady Toppers took advantage going on a 6-0 run that gave them the lead with 3:35 left in the first. A three-pointer from Sanders ended a late UT scoring drought before going in to the locker room with a tied score, 25-25.
Gooch's hot hand gave WKU an early six-point lead which was sustained through the most of the second half, maxing out at a 39-31 WKU advantage. Texas went on a 10-2 run to tie the game, but the Lady Toppers answered and pushed their lead to seven.
In the final four minutes of regulation, the game was tied on three different occasions as each team traded baskets to try to sustain the lead. As 20 seconds remained, a WKU foul allowed McCarty to sink the go-ahead free throws that secured Texas' win, 66-64.
Chastity Gooch scored 25 points to lead the Lady Toppers (30-5), who were trying to move forward in the tournament for the first time since 2000. Alexis Govan added another 20 WKU points.
The Longhorns will face host and No. 4 seed California in Berkeley on Sunday (8 p.m. Central, ESPN2).