Finding Demarcus Holland on the floor this season has been difficult. Between freshman guard Kerwin Roach, Jr., junior guard Isaiah Taylor and senior center Cameron Ridley, eyes have been far away from the senior guard so far.
But with the Longhorns up by 10 over Samford, Holland grabbed the spotlight with a firm grip.
Holland scored the first eight Longhorns points in the second half, ballooning the lead to 16 points en route to a 59-49 win over the Bulldogs on Friday night.
“My role has always been the same to be a glue guy to be a defender,” Holland said. “I don’t think that’s ever changed.”
The Longhorns again had a sluggish start in the first half. Senior guard Javan Felix drilled two 3-pointers out of the gate, but Texas quickly cooled off.
Samford, however, couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity. The Bulldogs took a one-point lead in the middle of the half but couldn’t build on it and finished the half shooting just 30 percent.
Then Ridley took over. The senior center scored twice off rebounds to give the Longhorns breathing room going into the break.
Ridley, whom Samford heach coach Scott Padgett called a “horse” and a “monster”, said he has to grab offensive rebounds.
“I wanted to start the game off going for the offensive rebounds aggressively because we haven’t been doing that,” Ridley said.
Holland’s run came as the Longhorns began to press coming out of the intermission. Texas forced five turnovers in the first five minutes of the half, resulting in more opportunities for Holland, who finished 4-of-4 from the floor with nine points.
Smart, who had the Longhorns press more this game, said the they still have a way to go with the press.
“We’re trying to give these guys an understanding of the way we want to do things when we do decide to press,” Smart said.
Ridley immediately followed Holland’s run with a dunk off of an inbounds pass on his way to a team-high 14 points.
The win gets the Longhorns over the .500 mark for the first time this season. Texas has one more tune-up game against UTSA before hosting No. 9 North Carolina on Dec. 12 in the biggest game of the young season.
Smart said they have to improve defensively to be ready for that game.
“The point I keep harping on these guys is you have to be connected,” Smart said. “You have to want to work with each other and lift each other up and communicate.”