After a slow start, junior center Prince Ibeh, middle, has made his presence known with nine blocks in the past three games.
Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

Isaiah Taylor’s game-winning overtime shot Monday earned him the title “hero” — but it was really Prince Ibeh who wore the cape in the team’s huge win over No. 14 Baylor.

Although he scored no points, grabbed just three rebounds, and was ejected in overtime, the junior center was the best player on the floor.

And it was all because of his defense.

In the closing seconds of regulation with the game tied, Baylor senior Kenny Chery came off a screen to a mismatch at the top of the arc. The 5-foot-11 point guard was isolated against the 6-foot-10 Ibeh. A quick move gave Chery a step or two on the towering Ibeh, and it looked like he was going to have an easy lay-up to put the Bears up. But — somehow, someway — Ibeh recovered and swatted Chery’s shot to save the game.

“I thought I had a clear lane,” said Chery, “But, obviously, he kept playing, and he blocked it. There’s nothing I can do about that.”

The defensive skills Ibeh showed weren’t isolated to that moment. He’s been showing them since his emergence in Manhattan, Kansas, nearly a month ago.

Until that game, Ibeh struggled to find the court. He was averaging just over eight minutes a game in the first-half of conference play after averaging over 13.5 against the Big 12 last year.

“We need to score,” Barnes said a few weeks ago on why Ibeh doesn’t get more minutes. “His problem has been the same. It’s consistency.”

On that Saturday afternoon, he got 20 minutes off the bench and forced Kansas State forward Thomas Gipson into a difficult shot to seal the all-important victory.  

“You have to give Prince credit,” junior forward Connor Lammert said after that game. “He earned it today because of his defense. Prince is key for us, and we need that from him each game.”

Ibeh heeded the call. In the eight games since the game against Kansas State, Ibeh has seen his minutes increase to around 11 a game. He doesn’t light up the stat sheet; in fact, he’s only averaged 1.5 shot attempts per game in that stretch with nearly all of those coming off of alley-oops.

“He is our best defender in the post,” Barnes said. “We’re not expecting him to score.”

He has more blocks in that time span (17) than shot attempts (12).

“He’s got a second bounce to him,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. “I thought several times Prince jumped at a three-pointer, got down and still was able to get back in the play. Normally, when you have a seven footer jumping for a blocked shot at the three, it takes four days for him to get back down in the paint — he is obviously a talent.”

Texas will need Ibeh to maintain his presence as defensive force as it hosts Kansas State at 3 p.m. Saturday in yet another game they must win as it rides that fine line that is the NCAA tournament bubble.

“If we lose, we know our chances of getting in NCAA tournament are about non-existent,” senior forward Jonathan Holmes said.

Senior forward Jonathan Holmes shoots over three Baylor defenders in Texas’ overtime victory over Baylor. The Longhorns overcame a 10-point deficit in the second half. Sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor made the winning shot on last-second floater.
Photo Credit: Michael Baez | Daily Texan Staff

With Texas’ NCAA tournament hopes on the line, sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor showed up just in time to save the day.

As No. 14 Baylor built its lead and was staving off the Longhorns, Taylor was watching from the bench. Taylor played 40 minutes against Iowa State, 34 at Kansas, but a season-low 15 Monday night.

“It was my choice,” head coach Rick Barnes said. “He wasn’t doing what we needed him to do defensively is why he didn’t play.”

Instead, junior guards Javan Felix and Demarcus Holland led Texas back from a 10-point deficit late in the second half. But when sophomore guard Kendal Yancy came up limping in the first minute of overtime, Barnes was forced to go back to his star point guard — and he didn’t disappoint.

A baseline runner got him going, and a midcourt scuffle got him heated. His signature floater sealed a much-needed 61–59 overtime victory for Texas over Baylor.

“Give me the ball, and I’ll get the bucket,” Taylor said on the game-winner.

He scored 7 in the game, and 4 points in a hard-fought overtime in which he and his team struggled for a win.

Going after a loose ball with Baylor’s Taurean Prince midway through overtime, Taylor took an incidental elbow that busted open his lip and cleared the benches for a scuffle at the scorer’s table. Yancy, junior forward Connor Lammert and junior centers Prince Ibeh and Cameron Ridley were ejected for leaving the Texas bench. Three Baylor players faced the same penalty. No punches were thrown, meaning that no players will be facing any further discipline.

The Bears (22–8, 10–7 Big 12) led throughout and held a 10-point lead with less than seven minutes remaining as Baylor dominated Texas (18–12,7–10 Big 12). The Bears held a 46–30 rebounding advantage total and totaled 21 offensive boards.

“They out-rebounded us like crazy,” Holland said.

But Texas went on a 16–6 run to tie the game capped by senior forward Jonathan Holmes’ 3-pointer with just over a minute left.

Baylor had its chance late, though. Guard Kenny Cherry got a mismatch on Ibeh, got a step and went straight to the rim. Ibeh, charging hard, got back just in time to swat the layup attempt and save Texas’ season in regulation.

“You got Prince out there playing great defense,” Holland said. “He has great timing on blocking shots.”

Texas, with Taylor on the bench, then held the ball for the last shot of regulation. With seconds left, Holmes fired up a long, contested 3-pointer that never really had a chance. 

“I should have put [Taylor] back at the end of regulation,” Barnes said. “That was my fault. Glad it worked out.”

In overtime, Texas controlled the pace of the game, owning the lead for the majority of it. However, a 3-pointer by Baylor’s Royce O’Neale tied things up with just 1:19 remaining, and the score set the stage for Taylor’s dramatics.

“It gives us another breath,” Barnes said.

Texas will finish its season Saturday against Kansas State in another must-win.

“We fought for it; we earned it,” Felix said. “Now we got to focus on preparing for Saturday night’s game.”

Sophomore guard Kendal Yancy served as Texas’ spark in its victory over TCU. Several Longhorns played big roles in this much needed win, the 600th of head coach Rick Barnes’ career.
Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Stock Up: Sophomore guard Kendal Yancy

Yancy set the tone for Texas’ victory Wednesday night. After a slow start, Yancy woke Texas up with two deep balls. He ended the game with 12 points and four rebounds.

With senior forward Jonathan Holmes sidelined because of a concussion, head coach Rick Barnes needed someone to step up, and Yancy, starting in his place, did just that. He even got to wear the warrior’s belt, which looks like a boxing title belt with the inscription, “Do your job.”

Stock Up: Junior center Cam Ridley

Ridley got back to being a dominant force in the paint after struggling against Kansas State. The biggest body in the paint ended up with a double-double, posting 15 points and 12 rebounds to go along with four blocks. Most importantly, he got to the free-throw line often throughout the night. Unfortunately, he hit just 7-of-13 from the charity stripe.

Near the end of the first half, Ridley even attempted to bring the rim down with him after getting fouled on a dunk, not letting go until the last possible second. The backboard started to tilt, sending the fans into a frenzy and Ridley scurrying for cover.

“I was scared,” Ridley said. “I thought it was going to fall on me. I tried to put it down hard.”

Stock Down: Junior center Prince Ibeh

While he did a good job defending the rim in his nine minutes, Ibeh just didn’t quite follow up on his spectacular game against Kansas State on Saturday. Against the Wildcats, Ibeh put up 4 points, four blocks and four rebounds on his way to becoming an unsung hero. But he tallied no points, no rebounds and just one block Wednesday night. 

By the Numbers:

50: Myles Turner’s free-throw percentage in the last four games. Going into the Baylor game less than two weeks ago, Turner was shooting an outstanding 89 percent from the line — especially significant considering he’s a 6-foot-11 freshman. But, in the four games since, he’s gone 5-of-10 from the line. It’s no longer automatic for him.

31: Free-throw attempts for Texas. Time after time, Barnes has gotten frustrated with his team’s inability to get to the line. However, they didn’t make the most of their opportunity, hitting only 21-of-31.

4: Number of 3-pointers junior guard Javan Felix hit in his first game back after missing two straight with a concussion. He got off to a slow start, missing his first two, but hit four of his final five. He also sunk his only attempt from inside the arc — a baseline jumper off an out-of-bounds play.

4: Offensive rebounds for Texas. That’s the lowest of the year for Texas. Despite outrebounding TCU, 36–27, the Longhorns weren’t getting many second-chance looks. Considering they shot 51 percent — not astronomically good — there were plenty of opportunities for more.

Freshman Demarcus Holland reacts to Wednesday night's 73-72 loss to Houston in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational. The Longhorns finished the season 16-18 in the worst season under head coach Rick Barnes.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

HOUSTON — To keep their season alive, the Longhorns had their work cut out for them from the onset Wednesday night. In the end, Houston proved to be too much for Texas, winning 73-72 to knock the Longhorns out of the CBI.

The Cougars will play George Mason in the CBI quarterfinals.

“It’s a disappointment,” head coach Rick Barnes said. “You are what you are and we ended up being 16-18.”

Down one point with five seconds remaining in the game, Texas had a chance to take the lead but Julien Lewis was unable to connect on a jumper in the lane to give Texas the edge. Lewis scored a career-high 25 points but the Longhorns could not keep the Cougars from making big shots down the stretch.

Already down one scholarship player after sophomore forward Jaylen Bond announced he would transfer on Monday evening, Texas lost another player when Cameron Ridley exited the game with an upper respiratory infection just five minutes into the game against the Cougars.

With two big men out of commission the job of controlling the post fell to Prince Ibeh, a player not known for his offensive aptitude. However, Ibeh rose to the challenge and recorded career highs in points, rebounds and blocks. The freshman scored 12 points, pulled down 11 rebounds and blocked five shots. 

“I knew I had to step up when Cameron went out,” Ibeh said. “I guess we assumed we were going to win and that it was just going to happen. We can’t assume that. We’ve got to make that happen. That’s what we’ve got to learn.” 

Ibeh presented a challenge for the smaller Houston post players, and worked his way to the free throw line several times by clearing out space on the block and forcing the Cougars to contest any shot he took. His free throw shooting was less than stellar as he went 4-of-8 from the line, but with each successive trip to the line, Ibeh forced the Cougars deeper into foul trouble. Texas attempted just six free throws in the first half, but ended the game with 18 attempts, making 14 of those shots.

The Cougars had four players reach double-digit point totals and seemed to be in transition the entire game, scoring nine points off turnovers and 11 more on the fast break. Joseph Young was especially effective against the Longhorns’ zone defense, shooting over the top of defenders and hitting four of the five Cougars’ made three-pointers. Forward TaShawn Thomas added 15 points and 10 rebounds.

“We knew we had to get back in transition fast against these guys,” Lewis said. “They love to run and we did do a better job getting back in the second half, but we have to get better at finishing games.”

Myck Kabongo put up 17 points and dished out six assists to go along with four steals. The Longhorns’ leading scorer Sheldon McClellan got off to a slow start shooting the ball and stayed cold from behind the three point line as he missed all five of his three point attempts.

For the first time since 1997-98, the Longhorns finish their season with a losing record.

“One thing I hope our guys learn from this year is how fine a line it is between winning and losing,” Barnes said. 

Texas struggles in first half against Houston, season could come to close

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart
Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart

It took more than 16 minutes before the Longhorns got to take their first free throw.

Prince Ibeh made it before airballing the second.

That's the kind of night it's been for Texas in its first-round CBI matchup against Houston. The Longhorns trail the Cougars, 37-31, at Hofheinz Pavilion and their season could be 20 minutes away from ending.

Cameron Ridley, making his second straight start after not having started in the previous 10 games, won the opening tip but Texas missed three shots on its first possession of the game. Four seconds later, Danuel House threw down a lob from Joseph Young to give Houston a quick 2-0 lead.

Ridley, who grabbed three rebounds in five minutes of action, will miss the rest of the game with an upper respiratory infection.

The Cougars maintained control of the game throughout the first half, outrebounding the Longhorns, 31-24, and grabbing 12 offensive rebounds to Texas' eight. Young led all scoeres with 12 points.

Texas shot 32.4 percent from the floor and hit only three of 16 three-point attempts, with Sheldon McClellan going 0-for-5 from beyond the arc. Myck Kabongo, who could be playing his last game in a Longhorns uniform as the sophomore is likely to declare for the NBA Draft after this season, had a team-high seven points and three assists in the first half.

Freshman point guard Jevan Felx had eight turnovers adding to the Longhorns 26, the highest total in the Rick Barnes era.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

Why Texas won: Texas didn’t waste any time pulling away from Coppin State. The Longhorns squeaked past a Fresno State team that won only 13 games last year, 55-53, in their season opener last Friday, never leading by more than five points. Despite committing 26 turnovers and shooting 55 percent from the free throw line, they won by 23 points Monday.

First half: Sheldon McClellan, who scored a game-high 20 points in Texas’ season-opening win over Fresno State last week, picked up right where he left off. He had 13 points by halftime while Texas’ defense held Coppin State to 21.4 percent shooting from the floor. After recording just three assists in the win over the Bulldogs a few days earlier, Texas had nine in the first half. Freshman point guard Javan Felix, starting his second straight game in place of Myck Kabongo, who continues to be investigated by NCAA, had six of them.

Second half:  Texas got off to a sluggish start after halftime, hitting just one of five shots and committing five turnovers in the first 4:45 of the second half. But a three-pointer from McClellan, sandwiched between a pair of dunks by Prince Ibeh, one on the back end of an alley-oop from McClellan, got the Longhorns back on track. Texas shot 54.5 percent from the floor in the final 20 minutes after shooting 40.7 percent in the first half.

By the numbers:

26:   The number of turnovers Texas committed, the most by the Longhorns under Rick Barnes, breaking the mark of 25 set in 1999. It was also twice as many turnovers as Texas had in its win over Fresno State
on Friday.

24.6:   Coppin State’s field goal percentage. After holding Fresno State to 35.6 percent shooting last week, the Longhorns’ defense stepped up again, holding the Eagles to 24.6 percent shooting from the floor and out-rebounding them, 50-25.

Stock up/down:

Up - Sheldon McClellan: The sophomore guard struggled with his shot Friday, scoring 14 of his 20 points from the free throw line. He was much more efficient Monday, going 7-for-10 from the floor and connecting on three of four three-point attempts on his way to scoring a career-high 25 points.

Down - Prince Ibeh’s free throw shooting:  The 6-foot-10 freshman was solid Monday, grabbing nine rebounds in 20 minutes. His free throw shooting wasn’t. He went 0-for-4 from the charity stripe and missed the rim on a pair of free throw tries in the second half.

What’s next?

Texas gets a week off before next Monday’s game against Chaminade in Hawaii, its first in the Championship Round of the Maui Invitational. The Longhorns will face either Southern California or Illinois in Tuesday’s semifinals. Texas made its last Maui Invitational appearance in 2008, when it finished in third place. In their only meeting, the Longhorns beat Chaminade, 84-62, in 2004.

Printed on Tuesday, November 13, 2012 as: Texas commits 26 turnovers in win

Texas took a step back, then two steps forward.

After announcing that guard Sterling Gibbs planned to transfer following the spring semester, the Longhorns inked two big names in high school basketball for the 2013 season.

The addition of guard Demarcus Holland and center Cameron Ridley gives the Longhorns a six-man recruiting class that includes guard Javan Felix, forwards Connor Lammert and Ioannis Papapetrou and center Prince Ibeh.

At 6-foot-10, Ridley is the source of much excitement for Texas fans because he was a high school standout. He brings size to a Texas team short on shot blockers and power players and is ranked as the No. 8 overall recruit in the nation by ESPNU. The Richmond, Texas native averaged 21.5 points, 15.2 rebounds and 5.3 blocks per game while helping Bush to a 25-5 record his senior year.

Holland, a guard from Garland, Texas averaged a team-best 11.3 points to go along with 4.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists and two steals per game as a senior. He was teammates with Ibeh, already a Texas signee, at Naaman Forest High School. Holland helped pace his team to a 29-8 record and advance to the Class 5A state semifinals in 2011.

Head coach Rick Barnes loves the versatility the incoming players bring to the table and sees Texas being successful in the long term with the addition.

“We’re so excited as a staff when you look at our returning players from this past year and combine them with the four players we signed in the fall and the addition of Demarcus and Cameron,” Barnes said. “All these guys come from winning programs and backgrounds, and they all want to win a championship at Texas. When we look at our roster, we see skill, character and work ethic, and we’re excited to have them get on the floor together this summer and get to work.”

Published on Thursday April, 12, 2012 as: Ridley, Holland add needed depth to squad

A quick glance at Texas’ roster reveals one glaring weakness — an overall lack of size, or height to be more specific. If that lack of height has been a weakness this year, it has the potential to become a festering wound this time next season. The Longhorns will lose two players over 6-foot-7 at the conclusion of this year as Clint Chapman and Alexis Wangmene will both have graduated. That leaves a big developmental gap at the four and five position for the Longhorns.

Assuming freshmen Jaylen Bond and Jonathan Holmes stick around, that leaves Texas with two, and only two, players over 6-foot-4 for 2012. Neither Bond nor Holmes have been spectacular, but then again, they’ve only been playing collegiate basketball for two months. Holmes has the potential to become a reliable post option, but Bond’s game lends itself to more of a hybrid wing-type player. Thus explains the Longhorns’ need for a legitimate post player that can lay the foundation for this extremely young crop of players.

That’s where Prince Ibeh figures in to the mix.

“I chose Texas because of the relationship the coaches built with me and the roster situation,” said the 6-foot-10 center from Garland.

Ranked as the No. 10 center in the state of Texas, Ibeh is about as close to 7 feet tall without officially being a 7-footer (both Rivals and ESPN have him at 6-foot-10 while others have him at 6-foot-11). He’s led the Naaman Forest Rangers to a 17-6 overall record this year and averages around eight points and eight rebounds a game. Ibeh’s not well known for his offensive prowess, but that’s been an area where Ibeh has showed steady improvement.

“There are a lot of offensive things I’ve added to my game,” Ibeh said.

With his 7-foot-4 wingspan, Ibeh has become one of the nation’s premier shot-blockers. Earlier this year he swatted 10 shots in a game against Denton, and on average he rejects five shots per game. However, Ibeh isn’t the type of player that just blocks shots and nothing else. He’s very judicious on defense and has only reached four fouls once in a game. Ibeh’s defense (and size) is what got him noticed, but it could be his new-found offense that makes him a household name at Texas.

“I want to work hard and become a starter,” said Ibeh, who as of right now is the Longhorn’s lone commitment at center for the 2012 class.

Cameron Ridley, another 6-foot-10 center, had initially committed to Texas as well but has since rescinded his commitment due to reasons unknown. Ibeh didn’t know enough about Ridley’s situation to offer a comment.

However, when asked whether he thought Dallas or Houston produced better basketball players, Ibeh responded with an emphatic “D-Town!,” keeping his allegiance to the Metroplex.

I get the sense that Ibeh is the type of guy that is going to put in a ton of work in the offseason and he could become a completely different player come next year. As long as he’s willing to put forth the effort, he’s going to be a great fit for coach Barnes and Co. His defensive awareness can’t be taught and he may be asked to serve as the anchor down low for the next few years. If Ridley does end up signing (thoughts are he will eventually), Ibeh won’t have to handle as many minutes right off the bat. However, due to the Longhorns’ drought of big men after this year, Ibeh won’t likely be afforded the opportunity to redshirt. He’s going to play, it’s just a matter of how much. In a perfect world he would be able to ease in to the lineup much like Holmes had done this year. However Barnes decides to utilize Ibeh, he will continue to learn and improve his game.

Printed on Thursday, January 26, 2011 as: Recruits to help with lack of height