The Texas faithful inside the Frank Erwin Center sat mostly in silence, stunned at what they were seeing.
In what was supposed to amount to a tuneup game Monday night, the Longhorns instead found themselves in a tight contest against Louisiana Monroe.
A dysfunctional Texas offense was the root of the problem, one that went nearly six minutes in the first half without collecting a field goal from the floor. It was one that also hovered at a measly 24 percent field goal percentage near the end of the same period.
It allowed the Warhawks to stay close for 27 minutes, even allowing them to pull ahead early in the second half.
But just when things got too close, Texas flexed its talent, breaking out on a 16-0 run with 12:09 left in the game that turned a tie into an insurmountable lead. The Longhorns never lost control after that, pulling away with a 65-55 victory.
“I think we shared the ball (during that run),” guard Elijah Mitrou-Long said. “We understood if you have the open shot, shoot it. We just let our hair loose.”
After lacking energy and ball movement for the majority of the night, the Texas offense started to gain pace and rhythm thanks to greater effort on the defensive end.
In particular, a switch to the zone defense helped the Longhorns generate turnovers and stops, which created better shooting opportunities during the Longhorns’ 16-0 stretch. Guards freshman Courtney Ramey, senior Kerwin Roach II and Mitrou-Long all registered easy points on fast breaks down the floor.
Although the Longhorns’ run late in the game was one of the few offensive bright spots of the night, head coach Shaka Smart was encouraged by the shot selection he saw and the direction his team seems to be heading in.
“I thought we took a lot more good shots tonight than we did against Arkansas,” Smart said. “We’re obviously a work in progress in a lot of ways, and our guys are still trying to figure out how to play together. I’m excited by where we’re going.”
Texas went through a similarly unproductive stretch against the Razorbacks on Friday night, failing to score a field goal for nearly 10 minutes. Their season opener against Eastern Illinois featured bits of woeful play in the first half as well.
But similar to their head coach, the Longhorns aren’t confused or worried by those individual stretches of play where they’re finding difficulties to score. They believe it’s a matter of finding cohesion in the early part of their schedule.
“I think it’s early in the season for us and for every single basketball team in college right now,” forward senior Dylan Osetkowski said. “(When) trying to find that game rhythm … practices are a whole lot different than games.”
Finding that chemistry will be pivotal in the coming days. Texas has one final matchup against The Citadel before a monumental challenge in the form of No. 7 North Carolina.
If they’re able to find that identity, however, it could make all that difference. Equipped with an immense amount of talent, athleticism and length on their roster, the Longhorns could have the makings for something special if they’re able to find an effective offensive mixture.
“(The Longhorns are) hard to figure out,” said Keith Richard, Louisiana Monroe head coach. “Obviously, great size. Obviously, talent. What are they? I think that’ll be their question as they move along. Once they find whatever it is that they should be, this team could be really good.”