Five Reasons We’re Excited About Longhorn Basketball

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On Friday, Texas men’s basketball gave fans a taste of a real game environment for the first time under new coach Shaka Smart. The Horns faced Tarleton State, the number-two basketball team in Division II, at the Frank Erwin Center. In front of a few thousand fans, including some rowdy Tarleton State fans, Texas won the exhibition 95-61, a statement win for the Horns in one of college basketball’s toughest conferences. Texas fans have a lot to be excited about when it comes to the men’s basketball team this year:

  • The freshmen. The great performance by the freshmen trio in the Orange and White Scrimmage was not a fluke. Tevin Mack and Kerwin Roach tied for the most points with 16 each. Eric Davis followed closely behind with 12. The freshmen stole the show once again with their shooting ability and insane verticals. Roach went viral—again—for his crazy dunk in the exhibition game. Mack snagged six rebounds; Roach and Davis had three each. The freshmen trio combined for eight total three-pointers. Once again, Davis was perfect from the free-throw line, knocking down all four. In these first two games, the freshmen trio has shown that they mean business.
  • The big men. Unfortunately, Connor Lammert and Shaquille Cleare were both unable to play Friday, but Prince Ibeh and Cameron Ridley held it down for the big men. Ridley had the second highest total points for the team with 15; Ibeh ended the night with 5. Ibeh racked up 3 rebounds and Ridley had 13. The biggest improvement seen from these two was their free-throw shooting. Ridley ended up missing just one try and Ibeh only missed two. The two big men had two blocks and one assist each. With Lammert and Cleare in the lineup, these big men are going to be a huge problem for opposing teams. They are faster and stronger than they were last year.
  • The coaches. It is no secret that fans are excited about new head coach Shaka Smart, but the assistant coaches deserve some of that excitement, too. The exhibition game had a completely different feel than the last few years with Rick Barnes. The coaches were energized, involved, and loud. Smart was a subbing machine. Every single player, except Cleare and Lammert, got to play for at least 15 minutes. Two walk-ons, Ryan McClurg and Danny Newsome, also got to play for a few minutes. While some players played for 20 or more minutes, their minutes were broken up to keep them rested and energized, which is a new look for Texas. The entire bench was involved  the whole game, and the crowd fed off of them.
  • The shooting. While it may have just been an exhibition game, Texas’ 95 points are more than the Horns have scored in any game in the last three seasons. Aside from the freshmen trio and Ridley, every other player, excluding the walk-ons, scored at least four points. The team shot 85 percent from the free-throw line, missing only four free-throws the entire game. The Horns shot 40 percent from the perimeter, knocking down 12 total three-pointers. Last season, Texas had a three-pointer percentage of 33.9 percent and shot 72 percent from the free-throw line.
  • The schedule. Four Big 12 teams made the cut for the AP Top 25 preseason rankings. Three of those teams, Oklahoma, Iowa State, and Kansas, landed in the top ten; Baylor landed at 22. Texas will play North Carolina, the number one team in the country, on December 12th in Austin. Another non-conference game on December 29 will be against 20th-ranked Connecticut. Once conference play starts, Texas will face all of those ranked Big 12 teams twice. Texas will also play 18th-ranked Vanderbilt on January 30. While Texas did not crack the top 25, the Horns will have a lot of opportunities to make their way into the rankings. Overthrowing the Tarheels on December 12 could be the win Texas needs to crack the AP Poll. Texas has won the past two games against UNC, meaning the current Texas roster has never lost to the Tar Heels.

Texas kicks off the season on Friday, Nov. 13 against the Washington Huskies, in Shanghai, China as part of the PAC 12’s globalization initiative. Tip-off is at 9 pm Austin time, 11 am in China. The Huskies ended last season with a 16-15 record and did not make the NCAA Tournament. The Horns lost in the first round to Butler, giving Texas a 20-14 record. This will be the third meeting between the two teams, and the first time the Huskies and Longhorns have played since 1991. Texas is 2-0 all-time against Washington.

Photo courtesy UT Athletics.

 

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