No. 23 Texas cruised to an 80-59 victory over the University of Louisiana-Monroe on Monday night in the Legends Classic Regional Round.
The Longhorns and Warhawks played a tight game early in the first half, but Texas’ athleticism and length helped clinch the win down the stretch. Four Longhorns scored in the double-digits and the team played lock-down defense in the second half to clinch the win at the Frank Erwin Center.
“I think our guys are happy with the result tonight, but you don’t want to get too happy,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “Our guys made pretty good decisions tonight. We need to continue to grow in that area.”
Texas jumped out to a 10-3 lead early in the half, but the Warhawks used solid ball movement to create open shots and get back in the game. Louisiana-Monroe used a 9-0 run to take a two-point lead with just over 13 minutes left in the half.
But freshman guard Andrew Jones forced a Warhawk turnover that led to a dunk from freshman center Jarrett Allen. The throwdown ignited the Longhorn offense and put Texas up, 22-18, and it never relinquished the lead.
“We showed a lot of aggression tonight on defense,” Jones said. “We really took pride in getting stops. Coach really emphasized … get a lot of stops so we can get out and set up our offense.”
Texas’ defense tightened up in the final minutes of the first half, thanks in part to Smart’s coaching. When Louisiana-Monroe had the ball, Smart was right on the edge of the court, clapping his hands and shouting to the Longhorns’ defenders. Texas went on to force four turnovers in the half and held a 37-28 lead at intermission.
“[Defense] was a huge point of emphasis,” Smart said. “The other day we were really inconsistent with our defensive energy. We still got a lot of things on the defensive end we need to improve on. I’ll probably continue to be down in the stance, pounding the floor.”
The Longhorns struggled to start the second but quickly found their rhythm behind an impressive performance from senior guard Kendal Yancy.
After recording just three points in the first half, Yancy scored eight points in the second to put Texas up by as many as 30 points. He added three rebounds and was a force on defense to keep the Warhawk offense at bay.
Sophomore guards Kerwin Roach Jr. and Tevin Mack also impressed in their first game back after a one-game suspension for violating team rules. Roach scored 11 points and recorded a block. Mack led the Longhorns in scoring with 14 points and hit four of Texas’ seven three-pointers.
“It felt good, I’m just glad we came out with a win overall,” Mack said. “I was a little bit nervous before the game, but I kind of fought through that real quick. It felt good to be out there again with the guys.”
Jones finished with 12 points and recorded a steal for Texas. Allen and freshman center James Banks both tallied two blocks while sophomore guard Eric Davis Jr. notched a career-high seven rebounds in what Smart called a “solid team effort.”
Texas returns to action on Thursday to face Eastern Washington in its second Legends Classic Regional Round game.