AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Kelsey Lang scored 18 points and No. 6 Texas continued its torrid start with a 72-59 win over No. 4 Tennessee on Sunday night, snapping a five-game losing streak in the rivalry.
The victory was another important step in Texas coach Karen Aston’s mission to return the Longhorns to the nation’s elite programs. Once a women’s basketball powerhouse, Texas has struggled to be a factor nationally or in the Big 12 over the last decade.
But Texas started this season ranked in the Top 10 and backed it up with an impressive victory at then No. 6-Stanford. Handily beating Tennessee will further expectations of a big season in Aston’s third year in Austin.
Texas (5-0) had four players score in double figures and shot 62 percent in the second half.
Bashaara Graves scored 15 points for Tennessee (4-2), which has lost two in a row.
Sunday’s matchup is the latest in a 36-year-old rivalry that began when Tennessee’s Pat Summitt and Texas’ Jody Conradt were building their schools into national powers. Summitt visited Austin when a statue of Conradt was dedicated in 2012. Conradt made the trip to Knoxville last year for the dedication of a statue in Summitt’s honor.
The Lady Vols had dominated the series in recent years, winning eight of the previous nine meetings, but Texas controlled everything Sunday night.
Nneka Enemkpali scored 17 points for Texas. Ariel Atkins scored 12 and Brianna Taylor scored 10 on 5-of-5 shooting. Together, Enemkpali, Lang and Taylor went 20 of 26.
Texas led 30-20 at halftime behind 12 points from Lang, who had no trouble establishing position under the Lady Vols basket. Tennessee center Nia Moore, the Lady Vols’ leading scorer through the first four games, started but played just five minutes the entire game and no points or rebounds.
Lang was 5-of-7 shooting in the first half. Tennessee was just 7 of 29 as a team.
Texas kept up the pressure in the second half, never letting the Lady Vols make a game of it. Tennessee’s Jasmine Jones briefly cut the Texas lead under 10 with the first basket of the second half but Texas quickly regained control when Celina Rodrigo buried a 3-pointer.
The Longhorns pushed the lead back to 15 when Enemkpali made consecutive baskets that made it 50-35 with 12:50 to play. Tennessee cut the Texas lead under 10 with just under four minutes to play, but a put-back by an unguarded Enemkpali turned momentum back to the Longhorns.
Texas: Kelsey Lang was supposed to back up 6-foot-7 Imani McGee-Stafford until a preseason injury knocked McGee-Stafford out of the lineup. Lang responded by leading Texas in scoring average, shooting percentage and minutes over the first five games.
Tennessee: The Lady Vols came in forcing opponents into an average of 27 turnovers. They managed only 12 against Texas.
Texas: Hosts New Mexico on Wednesday night.
Tennessee: Hosts Saint Francis (Pa.) on Wednesday night
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