After Texas’ 85-52 victory over Eastern Washington on Thursday, Eagles’ head coach Jim Hayford offered some words of encouragement ahead of the Longhorns’ matchup against Northwestern.
“Northwestern is a pretty good team,” Hayford said. “But Northwestern doesn’t have the size that Texas does. At the end of the day … Texas is a lot more talented than Northwestern. It should be a really, really good game.”
No. 23 Texas (3–0) will travel to Brooklyn, New York, for a contest against the Wildcats (2–1) in the Legends Classic Semifinals on Monday. Eastern Washington faced off with the Wildcats three days before its matchup with the Longhorns, and Hayford said Texas was the tougher team.
Talent aside, head coach Shaka Smart said the road trip will challenge his young squad. Half of the roster hasn’t traveled during their time at Texas, and the excitement of playing in the Barclays Center against strong opponents will provide a test for his young team.
“I’m excited for our guys, and I’m excited for the challenge,” Smart said. “The competition level will go up in New York. We will see better athletes, we will see more size, we will see
Northwestern has three players averaging double-digit scoring, and the Wildcats have knocked down 25 three-point shots this season. The team also brings sound free throw shooting, boasting a .768 team free throw percentage.
“It’s going to be a real challenge playing against a Big 10 opponent in Northwestern,” Smart said. “They have no weak links on the perimeter. They have really good players at each position, so we’re going to have to make sure all of our guys … are ready to respond to that challenge.”
The Longhorns feel confident after two blowout victories, but the young athletes realize playing on the road is different from playing at home. The freshmen have combined to score 93 of Texas’ 243 points through three games. Led by guard Andrew Jones’ 13 points per game, the group is excited to play in their first road game.
“It should be a great experience for all of us,” Jones said. “First time on the road in a college atmosphere, so it should be a great learning experience.”
Senior guard Kendal Yancy and other Texas veterans said they’ve offered advice to their young teammates. Yancy said he believes they’ll adjust well to an unfamiliar atmosphere.
“They just got to be able to trust some of the people who have been there,” Yancy said. “Just trust what we’re saying. Just follow Coach Smart’s plan and they’ll be just fine.”
Texas and Northwestern tip off at 8:30 p.m. on Monday. The team will face either Notre Dame (3–0) or Colorado (3–0) on Tuesday in either the championship game at 5 p.m. or the consolation game at 2:30 p.m.