Eric Gay
January 17, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) After their blistering start was burst by two straight losses, the Texas Longhorns needed a boost of confidence.

A return home for a 55-44 win over Texas Tech on Saturday was a good place to start.

Brady Sanders scored nine points Saturday, kick-starting the big second-half burst the No. 4 Longhorns needed to pull away.

''I enjoyed today even though it was hard and ugly at times,'' Texas coach Karen Aston said. ''Winning is really, really tough in this league. When you get one, you'd better be happy about it.''

The Longhorns had one of the best starts in school history before losing consecutive games at Iowa State and Oklahoma. The return to Austin produced a return to form as Texas outscored Texas Tech 24-10 in the paint and got 41 points off the bench.

Sanders scored seven in a two-minute burst in the second half that opened up a double-digit lead after the Lady Raiders had pulled within four.

Nekia Jones added 11 points for the Longhorns (14-2, 3-2 Big 12), which held Texas Tech to 27 percent shooting.

Amber Battle scored 10 points for the Lady Raiders (12-5, 2-3).

Texas was one of the most impressive teams in the country during the first two months of the season with three wins over top 10 teams all away from home. Then the losses knocked the Longhorns out of first place in the Big 12.

''It humbled us,'' Sanders said. ''Our last couple of practices have been hard and competitive, like they were in the beginning of the season. It helped us refocus.''

Against Texas Tech, the Longhorns showed how deep their bench can go and showed signs of getting healthier, despite some offensive problems.

No starter had more than seven points in Texas' lowest-scoring game of the season. But guards Brianna Taylor (left knee) and Ariel Atkins (right ankle) both returned after missing several games. Taylor's first basket gave Texas its first lead in a 10-0 Longhorns' run in the first half.

Imani McGee-Stafford, who also missed the first eight games, tied her season high with eight points in just 11 minutes in the first half. At 6-foot-7, she and forward Nneka Enemkpali make a formidable and physical frontcourt for the Longhorns.

Enemkpali, the Big 12's leading rebounder, had a rare off day with seven points and eight rebounds after eight double-doubles in the previous nine games.

Texas Tech has already had a remarkable turnaround in coach Candi Whitaker's second season. The Lady Raiders were 6-24 overall and 0-18 in the Big 12 last season. Last week's win at West Virginia was the program's first road victory in almost two years.

A top five road win would have been even bigger. The Lady Raiders pulled within 32-28 on a 3-pointer by Ivonne CookTaylor before Texas used a 6-0 run to quickly push the lead back to 10. Sanders made a 3-pointer that put Texas ahead 43-33 with 7:58 to play.

''If we can get this team to really believe they can put it all together, we can win games in this league,'' Whitaker said.

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TIP-INS:

Texas Tech: Austin has historically been tough on the Red Raiders, who are just 7-31 on the Longhorns' home court since the series began in 1977 ... The Lady Raiders had 17 turnovers against just five assists.

Texas: The Longhorns have scored less than 60 points the last three games ... Texas is 11-0 at home, and 25-2 over the last two seasons.

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STILL MISSING: Texas sophomore Kelsey Lang was the surprise of the first two months of the season and a huge reason behind the 13-0 start. She's all but disappeared of late, averaging 4.4 points in five Big 12 games.

''She started off really good and hit a slide. It's been hard for her to get her confidence back,'' Aston said. ''I have to remember she's a sophomore who didn't have this kind of expectation or pressure. She'll get out of it.''

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UP NEXT:

Texas Tech: Hosts Kansas on Wednesday night.

Texas: Travels to No. 3 Baylor on Monday night

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