AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Kelsey Lang is beginning to flourish in a bigger role with the Texas Longhorns.
Lang, new to the starting lineup this season, scored a career-best 20 points to help sixth-ranked Texas beat Texas-Pan American 72-45 on Wednesday night.
The 6-foot-5 sophomore center was 10 of 13 from the field. She set her previous high mark less than a week ago, scoring 14 as the Longhorns upset Stanford on Nov. 20.
Last season, Lang, backup to 6-7 Imani Stafford-McGee, averaged 5.4 points in 14 minutes a game. McGee-Stafford has yet to play this season because of a stress fracture in her left leg. Lang is averaging 14.5 points in 31 minutes.
''Our guards have been throwing some tremendous passes,'' Lang said. ''They get it right where I need it.''
Lang used her height to score inside against the shorter Broncs. She also shot well from outside.
''She's deadly from 15 feet,'' Pan American coach Larry Tidwell said.
Brady Sanders and Tasia Foman scored 10 points apiece for Texas (4-0). Another guard, Brianna Taylor, led the Longhorns in rebounds with 11 in 11 minutes.
Shwante' Goff led Pan American with 15 points.
UTPA (3-3) had played then-No. 5 Texas A&M tough 10 days earlier in Chicago before losing by two. But they were never competitive against Texas. The Broncs didn't make their first basket until 4:26 into the game. They had missed their first five shots, committed two turnovers, and trailed 9-0.
By halftime, Texas held a 34-17 lead that was primarily the product of tenacious defense and Pan American's inability to score. The Broncs shot 28 percent and committed 11 turnovers in the half. They also hit 28 percent in the second half.
''That's by far the best we've been guarded all year,'' Tidwell said. ''We had seven airballs in the first half.''
That figures to be the Longhorns' calling card this season.
''I think we can be a tremendous defensive team,'' Texas coach Karen Aston said.
Texas was not particularly efficient on offense, either, shooting 41 percent - 36.1 in the first half - and committing 19 turnovers. But the Longhorns turned 25 offensive rebounds - including five by Taylor - into 23 points. Overall, they outrebounded Pan American 59-27.
''We've been looking for an identity,'' said Aston, adding that they have found one. ''Defense and rebounding.''
Texas-Pan American: Nobody can say that Texas-Pan American is ducking some top competition. The Broncs will also face No. 13 Baylor on Jan. 3.
Texas: Sophomore reserve forward Nekia Jones was cleared to play after being held out of games at Stanford and UCLA due to an unspecified health concern. Jones' playing status, for this season and beyond, was in jeopardy until she was cleared. Jones did not play on Wednesday. She had eight points and 10 rebounds in 16 minutes in the season-opener against Texas-San Antonio.
Texas has not reached the Sweet 16 since 2004. The Longhorns have lost six of their last seven tournament games. Now, Texas is ranked sixth in the country, its highest mark since reaching No. 4 in December, 2008. Can third-year coach Aston establish Texas as nationally prominent program? One positive sign is that the Longhorns beat Stanford last week with a team that has just two seniors.
''It would be coach speak to not say we are in the right direction,'' Aston said. ''I think we are headed in the direction that Texas should be headed in, absolutely.''
TOUGH NIGHT FOR GUARDS
Aston used eight guards against Pan American, all of them playing at least 11 minutes. They combined to hit just 13 of 43 shots (30.2 percent). Brianna Taylor missed all five of her free throws.
Texas-Pan American hosts Houston Baptist on Saturday.
Texas hosts Tennessee on Sunday.