In the same play that Texas almost lost its leader, it found him.
After sinking a three pointer in the waning minutes of the first half, junior guard J’Covan Brown fell to the floor and clutched his ankle. The Frank Erwin Center let out a collective gasp, but not a single coach came to tend to him. He wouldn’t have wanted them to anyway.
“The referees said that if someone came and got me, they’d have to sub me out,” Brown said. “So Myck [Kabongo] came over to me and told me to just get up, and I got up.”
Turns out, it was as simple as getting up for Brown. He easily recovered from the tweak and collected a cool 12 points after the fall and 28 total points on the game. He even contributed eight assists and four rebounds. By the time the second half rolled around, Brown was walking up and down the court with a swagger that screamed “challenge me” to the Boston University Terriers.
BU’s first-year head coach, Joe Jones, was happy his team didn’t have to challenge Brown anymore after the game.
“[Brown] doesn’t need a lot of time to get it off,” Jones said.
“He shoots with a lot of confidence, and anytime we made a poor decision on how to guard him, he made us pay.”
Brown said he felt “comfortable” all game, and it was evident from the get-go. He opened up the game with a quick three pointer to give Texas its first points. He lit the score board up from then on, hitting 52 percent of his shots on 10 of 19 shooting.
Head coach Rick Barnes entrusted Brown with a leadership role at the start of the season, and he didn’t disappoint. He worked so efficiently that he had already matched his career high in points — 28 — with 13 minutes left in the game.
When the match was out of reach, Brown wasn’t done. He scrapped trying to simply add to his record point total and focused instead on dishing the ball around. He made a laser pass to the corner to find an open Julien Lewis for the trey which was a decision Barnes was especially pleased with. Barnes said his guard’s smart passing decisions are attributable to Brown’s “cerebral style of play.”
“J’Covan had eight assists and he probably could’ve shot all of those if he wanted to,” Barnes said. “But he’s got a great feel for the game, and great vision.”
He registered the stats, but what won’t show up in the box score were Brown’s teaching moments. Not only did he lead by example on the floor, but he verbally coached his undeveloped teammates on how to cut to the basket, find the team’s open shooters and keep the offense moving.
“When I’m the junior guard, I can preach that stuff to the young guys and then they learn how to feed off of that,” Brown said.
By the time he left the game with 5:30 remaining, Texas had the game locked down. Brown went to the bench with a smile not even knowing the extent of his record night until the post-game press conference. Instead, he was more excited about how well his young teammates adapted to the game.
“I didn’t know,” Brown said in regards to tying his career high in points. “My teammates did a great job out there to find me.”
Brown is finally in the position many expected him to eventually assume. He is Texas’ most prolific scorer and he’ll likely need to continue that style of play to keep the Longhorns afloat until the young guns develop their already visible individual talent. Until then, Brown is happy playing the role of the all-rounder on a team that will have to do all the little things right to succeed this year.
“This year we are hyper. We will use our speed to get us over the hump,” Brown said of this squad’s identity.
“We have to keep fighting as a unit.”
At least for one night, Brown came out swinging.