After the China Experiment, Texas Heads to the Bahamas

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On Saturday, Nov. 21, Texas men’s basketball will play its home opener against Texas A&M—Corpus Christi. The Longhorns tipped off for the season-opener against the Washington Huskies in Shanghai, China, last Friday. While this may have been a historic game for college basketball, it is a game Texas would like to forget. Although Texas was an 11-point favorite heading into the game, the Huskies upset the Horns 77-71.

But the new and improved Shaka Smart basketball team was far from new and improved in Shanghai. A team that had shown its shooting ability in the Orange and White Scrimmage and the exhibition game against Tarleton State could not get a shot off. Junior Isaiah Taylor led the team with 27 points; the 10 other players scored less than 7 points each. Overall, the team knocked down only 19 of its 73 field goal attempts and two of its 15 three-point attempts.

Texas was not alone in their struggles. Washington only knocked down 25 of their 72 field goal attempts and three of their 20 three-point attempts. The two team’s stats were almost identical: No one could get a good shot off. Some members of the media who attended the game in Shanghai said the arena was set up strangely and depth perception was an issue. According to senior big man Cam Ridley, none of the players complained about this.

“We practice in the Erwin Center, and that’s about the same size,” Ridley said on Thursday afternoon in the Denton Cooley Pavilion adjacent to the Frank Erwin Center. “They’ll be fine in the future.”

Similarly, Smart said the depth-perception excuse is just that—an excuse. Another complaint Smart heard was about the rims. Smart said both teams shot badly, so maybe these excuses had some legitimacy, but regardless, he expected more from his team.

“I would rate our performance a two out of 10,” Smart said. “The last thing we want to do is allow one game to define how we feel about our team.”

Since returning from China, the Horns have had a week off. According to Taylor, they are anxious to get back on the court.

“We haven’t had a win in a while,” he said. “We haven’t had a win since March.”

Despite this season opener, Smart is still confident in his team. He says the team needs to stop paying so much attention to the name on the front of the jerseys and take all opponents seriously. Smart was proud of the defensive play, but wants more from the big men. Ridley, Prince Ibeh, and Connor Lammert all fouled out against Washington. With the new rule changes in college basketball, Smart said everyone will need to adjust, not just the big men.

While the “historic” trip to China may have been clouded by the loss, the team still enjoyed its time there. None of the players or coaches had been to China before; many had never even flown internationally. They spent some time sight-seeing, going to McDonald’s, and looking up at former NBA and Chinese Basketball Association great Yao Ming. At one of the practices, the players got to meet Hall of Famer Bill Walton. After talking to him some, Ridley described Walton as “interesting.” Everyone who tuned into the Texas-Washington game got to hear two hours of Walton commentary about basketball, but mainly about China.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is entering Saturday’s game against the Horns fresh out of a loss to the Horns’ old rival, Texas A&M. Texas is leaving the country again on Monday to go to the Bahamas to play in the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Horns kick off that tournament on the 25th against none other than the Texas A&M Aggies. This will be Texas men’s basketball’s first meeting against the Aggies since Feb. 6, 2012; no player on Texas’ current roster has ever played against this old rival. Furthermore, Texas may even get to have a rematch against Washington in the Bahamas. The Horns and Huskies could meet in the second round of the tournament, which will be played on Thanksgiving Day.

Luckily for Texas fans, the Battle 4 Atlantis will be the last time Texas basketball leaves the country this season, except for when the team heads to Norman, Oklahoma. Texas’ home opener against A&M—Corpus Christi is the Battle 4 Atlantis regional game. This is the fourth meeting between the two; Texas leads the series 3-0. Tip-off will be at 7 p.m. at Frank Erwin Center. The game will air on Longhorn Network.

Image via Texas Athletics.

 

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