Shaka Smart

Photo Credit: Katie Bauer | Daily Texan Staff

Tremendous, athletic dunks by freshman forward Mo Bamba, the return of junior guard Kerwin Roach II and shocking the No. 8 team in the nation — there were plenty of reasons the crowd at the Frank Erwin Center was on its feet Wednesday night.

The Longhorns not only competed but played an exciting brand of basketball to boost the atmosphere at The Drum in a 67-58 upset victory over eighth-ranked Texas Tech.

“The fans were great tonight, particularly the students,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “They made a huge, huge difference for our team. I really appreciated the way people in Austin, people in the UT community have rallied around our team in a difficult time.”

Bamba’s energy gave the Texas faithful a reason to get excited, producing highlight dunk after highlight dunk and rejection after rejection. The freshman finished with a loaded stat line of 15 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks.

“I think he can block the moon and the sun,” Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard said. “He’s a lottery pick for a reason.”

But the most important dunk of the game belonged to Roach, whose right-handed flush down a wide-open lane mounted Texas’ lead to 64-52 with 2:06 remaining in the game. The 12,396 onlookers responded by achieving a maximum decibel level for the night.

It was a spectacular outing for the junior guard, who returned after a fractured left hand marked him absent for the last two contests. Roach shoveled in a season-high 20 points, and the 59.1-percent free throw shooter showed massive improvement by sinking 8-of-9 shots from the stripe on the night. 

Additionally, he thrived in his primary role as a defensive nuisance, holding Texas Tech senior guard Keenan Evans — who averaged 17.5 points per game entering Wednesday — to just 11 points.

“It was big for us,” Bamba said of Roach’s return. “Snoop (Roach’s nickname) really takes charge in our perimeter defense, and having him back in the lineup made all the difference. Keenan Evans is a really good player offensively, and Snoop really did his job on him tonight.”

Texas moved slightly away from the three-ball and played to its strengths. Smart’s team only attempted 15 shots beyond the arc. The Longhorns finished with 32 points in the paint instead. A high-percentage shot selection led the team to finish 51.1 percent from the floor as the Longhorns obtained their first top-10 win since February 2016.

Despite the ranking disparity and the absence of sophomore guard Andrew Jones — who is battling leukemia — Texas was in control for the majority of the 40 minutes. 

The Longhorns snatched an early 12-11 lead with 10:42 left in the first half and remained ahead until the final buzzer sounded. The Red Raiders provided a brief scare by cutting the margin to five with just under five minutes to go. 

But thanks to a barrage of late layups and dunks, Texas (12–6, 3–3 Big 12) prevailed in an urgent game, avoiding a losing streak while managing to stay competitive against the elite in a challenging Big 12.

“The thing about this league is teams being ranked and where they’re ranked will fluctuate some because people are going through a gauntlet of tough games,” Smart said. “There’s five or six teams in our league that could make an argument to be in the top 10, 15 or 20. 

“We’re not one of them yet; we’re trying to become one of them. Tonight was a good step in that direction.”

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

Exactly one week ago at the Frank Erwin Center, the Longhorns upset then-No. 16 TCU in double overtime in what proved to be one of the more thrilling games in program history.

Three days later, the team fell to Oklahoma State on the road in disappointing fashion, surrendering a 12-point lead down the stretch with two of its starting guards, sophomore Andrew Jones and junior Kerwin Roach II, still sidelined.

The disparity in endings from the two contests just days apart highlights the narrow margin for error Texas finds itself playing with. Given the seven-man rotation, a poor performance by any Longhorn can mean the difference between a win and a loss in a fiercely competitive Big 12 conference.

“To win against really good teams in this league, with the guys we have out, you’re going to have to have the majority of our guys play well on a given night,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “And that’s what we had against TCU."

“Jericho (Sims) played well. Jase (Febres) played well and gave us eight early points. And of course Matt (Coleman) and Mo (Bamba) and Dylan (Osetkowski) — they all played well. And even then it took double overtime. So when you’re down a couple of guys, that’s what it’s got to be.”

Texas hopes to recapture the energy of the TCU win as it hosts No. 8 Texas Tech on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Red Raiders are coming off a home win over then-No. 2 West Virginia, where they erased a late deficit much like the lead Texas saw disappear against Oklahoma State.

With a deep roster of returning talent, including four seniors, the physicality of the Texas Tech matchup could be a problem for a Texas team that lately has been starting all freshmen except one.

“There is something to be said for having guys — whether they’ve played for another coach or not — guys that have been in college and have winning experience and experience in the Big 12,” Smart said. “(Texas Tech) last year had a really good group of juniors that you knew this year were going to be a special team.”

The Longhorns’ lack of depth has forced the coaching staff to experiment with more unconventional lineups. Smart has opened the past two games with the big-man trio of Sims, Osetkowski and Bamba all starting.

While Osetkowski has demonstrated an ability to create and distribute like a guard, Texas’ lack of shooting has largely negated one of its strongest advantages: the interior. Opposing teams have the luxury of leaving the forwards open on the perimeter as they collapse on any post-up opportunity the Longhorns may create.

“Depending on who else you have in the game, teams may or may not have to guard our guys,” Smart said. “So for instance, when we have the bigger lineup in, the defenders are going to be sitting in (Osetkowski’s) lap, if not double- or triple-teaming him with Mo and Jericho’s men.”

The smaller rotation has been beneficial to some degree. Heavy minutes for role players like Sims and junior guard Eric Davis Jr. have led to a surge in production across the board. Three Texas players recorded career highs in scoring in the past week.

When Roach eventually returns from a fractured left hand, Texas will be a better fit for the smaller lineup. For now, consistency is the name of the game if the Longhorns hope to take down a deeper, more experienced opponent like Texas Tech.

“In general, our young guys, with the increased experience that they’ve had … all of them are getting better,” Smart said. “And that’s what you want from freshmen. They are making strides. It never happens as fast as you want it to, particularly when you are depending on those guys. But I do think they are much further along than they were maybe five or eight days ago.”

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

With Texas fans and players still reeling from Wednesday morning’s announcement, the Longhorns hit the hardwood for their second Big 12 home game of the season.

It was a day bigger than basketball.

Nine hours earlier, the team announced sophomore guard Andrew Jones had been diagnosed with leukemia and was undergoing treatment.

The players sported temporary “AJ1” patches on their white jerseys in honor of their absent teammate. Fans erupted in cheers when Jones’ name appeared on the jumbotron during the game. Shirts with the hashtag “JonesStrong” could be seen around the arena as the Longhorns faced off with No. 16 TCU at the Frank Erwin Center.

Two overtimes and several career performances later, Texas escaped at the buzzer as a layup by TCU guard Jaylen Fisher fell off the front of the rim. The Longhorns earned a 99-98 upset win, their first over the Horned Frogs in the last three meetings between the two programs.

“I could feel an energy from our crowd tonight because of Andrew,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “They really understood it was a game we wanted to go win for him, and they were a big part of that.”

Texas was also without a second piece of its starting lineup. Junior guard Kerwin Roach II sat out with a left hand injury, prompting a three big-man start with junior forward Dylan Osetkowski embracing a role on the wing.

Without two of their top scorers from the guard position, the Longhorns needed a special effort from its supporting cast. And that’s exactly what they got.

Freshman guard Matt Coleman scored 17 points and dished out a career-high 12 assists. Along with career-highs in points from junior guard Eric Davis Jr. and freshman forward Jericho Sims, the Longhorns rallied after losing a late lead to move to 2-2 in Big 12 play.

“I wanted everyone in the building, the team to realize that this isn’t about us,” Davis said. “It's about (Andrew). And like Matt said, playing with joy. He was just with us. He’s fighting a different battle. We still have to fight. I wanted to show everyone that it's deeper than basketball. And just enjoy it.”

Coleman looked aggressive from the opening possession. Burdened with carrying the bulk of the ball-handling and playmaking duties, the freshman point guard sliced through the defense with a long floater to give Texas the first points of the contest. A play later, Coleman found Sims for an easy bucket in the lane, one of his eight first-half assists.

Sophomore guard Jacob Young entered the game and scored five in a row to help Texas jump out to an early 18-8 advantage. Texas started a white-hot 7-of-8 from the floor, including two threes.

Everyone had it going in the first half. Freshman guard Jase Febres, coming off a career-high 18 points against Baylor, started 2-2 from deep to help Texas pull ahead 21-14. Texas headed to halftime up 10, looking dominant after 20 minutes.

The Longhorns executed out of the break with surgical precision. After two games with a clear second-half slump, Texas was locked in during the first five minutes and appeared poised to run away with it.

Freshman forward Mo Bamba recorded a block on the opening possession of the second half, and Coleman immediately got to the line on the other end and drilled both shots to add to the lead. Texas pulled ahead by double-digits, 51-38, on a pair of buckets in the paint.

With every TCU run, Texas seemingly had an answer. Osetkowski completed an and-one to put the Longhorns ahead by eight with 11 minutes left.

But as time ticked on, the momentum slowly shifted in favor of the Horned Frogs. With 10 minutes to play, TCU moved to full-court pressure to try and shake up the Longhorn rhythm, beginning to chip away at the lead.

TCU guard Kenrich Williams cut the Texas lead to five with a huge 3-pointer, then made a free throw to cut it to just four. With seven minutes left the Longhorns were up 63-61 and could only look up and wonder how they had let the lead get away.

TCU completed its furious comeback to tie the game at 77 with time expiring in regulation. Coleman had an off-balance look from deep but it was just short and the two teams headed into overtime.

Davis hit a three early in extra minutes to reclaim the lead. The Horned Frogs answered with a putback before hitting a three of their own to go up by two with two minutes to play. Texas used its final timeout to draw up a play, and Osetkowski buried a three in the corner off the assist from Davis to keep the Longhorns’ hopes alive.

TCU managed to force a second overtime off an uncontested jumper from the elbow, but Bamba fouled out.

With five seconds left in the second extra period, Sims headed to the line. The game was tied. He sank the first shot but the second clanked off the back iron, and TCU called timeout with an opportunity to win the game with a bucket.

But through fortune, fate or an unfriendly roll, the final layup at the buzzer was off the mark, and Texas (11–5, 2–2 Big 12) escaped with the upset at home.

“I think everyone left everything they could on the floor tonight,” Osetkowski said. “For one reason. That was a big win for us.”

Photo Credit: Katie Bauer | Daily Texan Staff

Fifteen games into the season, and three into conference play, Texas is still searching for an offensive identity.

A late-game road collapse at the hands of Baylor exposed the team's lack of playmaking at the guard position without sophomore Andrew Jones. The Longhorns went scoreless against the Bears in the final five minutes, missing their last eight shots from the floor.

Now the Longhorns (10–5, 1–2 Big 12) return home on Wednesday night hoping to avoid a third straight loss to No. 16 TCU — Texas dropped both games to the Horned Frogs last season — but they will be without Jones for a second straight game. The team’s second-leading scorer returned from a wrist injury in the conference opener against Kansas. But he did not travel to Waco on Saturday due an undisclosed illness and will not suit up against the Horned Frogs.

Head coach Shaka Smart met with the media on Tuesday to discuss the upcoming homestand. There he declined to comment on Jones’ status.

“It's a tough situation,” Smart said. “But right now, out of respect for the family, I am not able to provide any information other than to say he won’t be playing.”

Without Jones, the reins to the offense fall squarely in the hands of freshman Matt Coleman. The young point guard has performed well through 15 games but looked out of rhythm down the stretch against Baylor. With Jones sidelined, Smart is hoping Coleman will embrace a more active role in the offense.

“I think this year for the most part (Coleman’s) done a really good job,” Smart said. “The Baylor game, we weren’t as organized. So he and I spent a lot of time together watching tape and getting ready for this next one.”

Texas has leaned heavily on its interior tandem of freshman Mo Bamba and junior Dylan Osetkowski. The pair of forwards have helped the Longhorns lead the Big 12 in blocks while providing plenty of offense both down low and from beyond the arc. But Smart and Texas need a playmaking point guard to create off the dribble. The coaching staff hopes it can unlock that in Coleman.

“I think for (Coleman) as a point guard, particularly when your team doesn’t necessarily have all of your guys, it is all the more important for you to help your team organize on the court,” Smart said. “And obviously that’s much more important in college, and much more complicated.”

With an expanding role comes more pressure for the freshman. Smart has worked closely with Coleman to help with the transition. But with no timetable for Jones’ return, the rest of the Longhorns’ season may hinge on Coleman finding his groove.

“There are two things I asked Matt going into this year to focus on,” Smart said. “Obviously as a freshman point guard you get hit with 2 million things instead of two. But to boil it all down, I said that you and I need to be connected, and you need to play with a level of joy on the floor.”

Photo Credit: Katie Bauer | Daily Texan Staff

Junior forward Dylan Osetkowski set his feet and buried a 3-pointer with 30 seconds remaining in overtime, helping Texas rally past Iowa State at the Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa, on Monday night, 74-70, for its first conference road win since 2016.

After surrendering 17 threes in the loss to Kansas on Friday, Texas responded by holding Iowa State to only seven of its 27 attempts from behind the arc.

Two days after freshman forward Mo Bamba exploded scoring 11 of the Longhorns’ first 13 points against the Jayhawks, Osetkowski poured in eight of Texas' first 10 points against Iowa State — part of a career-high 25 points to go along with the junior forward's nine rebounds.

“Coach in practice has been adamant with me to shoot the ball, regardless of whether it is going in or not,” Osetkowski said. “They believe in me and I just need to have confidence. And going into this game my confidence was through the roof.”

Head coach Shaka Smart took full advantage of the Texas bench, subbing regularly to keep the pace in the Longhorns’ favor. Iowa State’s lack of depth forced the team to lean heavily on its starting rotation.

Texas also showed a full court press for much of the second half and overtime, negating the energy from the crowd of more than 14,000, limiting the Cyclones’ explosiveness down the stretch.

“We knew it would be a very similar environment to VCU,” Osetkowski said. “Great crowd. We knew Iowa State would be fighting the whole night. But those are the games you come to Texas for. This is Big 12 play, and it's what we love to do.”

The Longhorns kept the pace through the opening 20 minutes, propelled by 14 first-half points from Osetkowski. The two teams entered the locker room tied at 31.

But just as Kansas found separation early in the second half on Friday, the Cyclones seemed poised to run away with it coming out of the break. A quick six-point run gave Iowa State a five-point lead, prompting a Texas timeout with 15 minutes to play.

With the growing threat of starting conference play 0–2, the Longhorns found an unlikely hero in junior guard Eric Davis Jr. After creating consecutive and-one possessions to narrow the lead, Davis hit a 3-pointer with under two minutes left to give Texas a one-point advantage. All 15 of Davis’ points came in the second half as the Longhorns rallied to forced overtime.

From there an Osetkowski three and pair of free throws from freshman guard Matt Coleman made it a two-possession game with under two minutes to play. Texas was able to close out the contest and move to 10-4 overall and 1–1 in conference play.

“Whether it was run the clock or get a great shot instead of a good shot, we just wanted to finish the game strong,” Osetkowski said. “And we did that.”

The Longhorns continue their road trip with a matchup against No. 18 Baylor on Saturday in Waco.

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

Texas hosted No. 11 Kansas on Friday night at the Frank Erwin Center for the Big 12 opener, but the Jayhawks’ blistering 17 threes overpowered the Longhorns, 92-86, in front of a crowd of 15,802. Here are four thoughts from Friday night’s game:

Mo Bamba takes over

All that Kansas head coach Bill Self could do was scratch his head in bewilderment.

As he briefly reflected on the shot-blocking exhibition that Texas freshman forward Mo Bamba displayed on Friday night, Self sat at the podium incredulously during his postgame press conference.

“The guy could block the sun,” Self said of Bamba.

Bamba finished the night with a career-high 22 points, 15 rebounds and eight blocks, but it wasn’t enough to lift Texas to a what would’ve been a mammoth home upset.

It must’ve felt like deja vu all over again for Self, who saw his Jayhawks come into Austin last season and topple the Longhorns 77-67 despite a huge effort from another Texas freshman big man, Jarrett Allen, who now plays in the NBA for the Brooklyn Nets.

Bamba joined elite company with his block party on Friday night, setting the program's freshman single-game record for blocks.

Former Texas bigs Tristan Thompson and Chris Mihm previously held that record with seven blocks in a game (Thompson did it once, Mihm twice). Bamba was one block shy from tying the school record for most in a game. Cam Ridley holds that record with nine.

Bamba got off to a roaring start with multiple big dunks and rejections. He scored 11 of Texas’ first 13 points, and Kansas knew right away what it was dealing with for the rest of the night. Bamba, however, cooled down in the second half with only six points.

Bamba’s effort was his most impressive to date at Texas, but he knew after the game that the Longhorns still hadn’t made the statement that they desired.

“There’s no such thing as a statement game if you lose,” Bamba said. “But there’s definitely hope out of this.”

Kansas overwhelms Longhorns from beyond the arc

There were times on Friday night when the Longhorns may have felt like they were playing against the Golden State Warriors. But you could make the argument that the Kansas Jayhawks are already college basketball’s version of the NBA’s 3-point shooting powerhouse.

Just ask Texas freshman point guard Matt Coleman.

“It’s like playing the Warriors almost,” Coleman said after the game. “That’s what it looked like.”

The pure shooting talent of Kansas’ guards was on full display. The trio of Devonte’ Graham, Lagerald Vick and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk led the way for the Jayhawks, combining for 64 points on 16-30 shooting from beyond the arc.

Self said afterward that he told his team before the game it needed to shoot 35 threes. The Jayhawks finished the night 17-35 from beyond the arc. It was ultimately the difference in the game, as the Longhorns just couldn’t keep pace in the second half with Kansas’ hot shooting. Texas was just 7-25 from the 3-point line.

“It definitely shifted the energy of the game,” Bamba said.

Kansas’ shooting proves gap between Texas

The Jayhawks have always been the Big 12’s perennial authority in the conference. Kansas has won 17 regular season conference titles since the Big 12’s inception in 1997. Kansas has won outright or shared every Big 12 regular season crown since 2005.

It’s a program that Texas has at times flirted with, but has never really been able to come close to matching.

Head coach Shaka Smart wasn’t necessarily hired away from Virginia Commonwealth to make Texas into Kansas. The Longhorns aren’t known historically for their basketball prominence. But Smart does know Texas is capable of beating a team like the Jayhawks on any given night.

Of course, year in and year out, the Jayhawks produce tremendous 3-point shooting — stuff that has been a foreign concept around the 40 Acres for a long time. J’Covan Brown and A.J. Abrams — two of Texas’ most recent and successful sharpshooters — have long been gone, and not having consistent shooting that those two players provided has likely held Texas back the past few seasons.

But Kansas seemingly possesses players like those every season. Texas just doesn’t.

Asked after the game how big the gap between Texas and Kansas is right now, Smart admitted that 3-point shooting was the outlier in all of this.

“Well, tonight (the gap) was six points,” Smart said. “Obviously they’re one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country. Tonight was an extreme for them, but they make shots at a high level. It’s probably the biggest difference.”

Andrew Jones returns, but is limited

Sophomore guard Andrew Jones had missed Texas’ last four games with a wrist injury entering Friday night’s bout with Kansas. Smart said on Thursday that Jones was not going to start but that he could still possibly play.

Jones was a full-participant in pregame warmups on Friday night and didn’t appear to be bothered by his wrist when shooting the ball.

But he logged only nine minutes against Kansas, chipping in five points on 1-3 shooting. Jones will have to get back to full strength soon as the Longhorns are beginning their Big 12 schedule. It’s a conference that night in and night out is arguably the most demanding in the country.

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

Freshman forward Mo Bamba delivered a series of dunks and alley-oops in front of a frenzied home crowd on Friday night at the Frank Erwin Center, each seemingly more difficult than the last.

But every bucket in the paint on one end turned into a 3-pointer on the other, as the Longhorns’ league-leading three-point defense was unable to stymie a deluge of Jayhawk threes.

Three Kansas players recorded at least five triples as the long-range attack from the 13-time defending Big 12 champions proved too much for Texas’ defense to handle, as the Longhorns fell 92-86 at home in the first conference game of the season.

“They had probably one of the best three point exhibitions I’ve ever seen in my life,” Bamba said. “They caught fire, and it's hard to defend. Even when you have a hand up. Even when you close out as hard as you do.”

After Texas held Alabama to 20 percent shooting from behind the arc last week, No. 11 Kansas opened the contest with a trio of quick threes and remained dialed in from deep all game, connecting on 17 of its 35 attempts. The Jayhawks’ win earned the program its 27th straight conference-opening victory.

Bamba shined in his first-career Big 12 matchup, keeping the Longhorns within striking distance as Kansas connected on nearly twice as many shots from beyond the 3-point line. The freshman forward recorded a career-high 22 points and 15 rebounds to go along with eight blocks in the loss, cementing himself as perhaps the league’s top defensive talent.

In the face of the imposing 280-pound, 7-foot frame of Kansas center Udoku Azubuike, Bamba provided Texas eleven of the team’s first 13 points on five shots at the rim, including an and-one slam to put the Longhorns ahead by one.

On the other end, Bamba swatted away shot after shot, finishing one block shy of the school record.

“He played really well,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “We ask him to do so much. But his defense in the first half around the basket was terrific. He blocked shots all night long. He rebounded all night long. He got offensive rebounds. I think he’s making progress.”

Down 25-17 in the first half, sophomore guard Matt Coleman found an open look in the corner to cut the lead to five. Moments later, Bamba drained a wide-open three to put Texas within a single possession.

Bamba managed another block on the other end, and sophomore guard Andrew Jones  — who had missed Texas’ last four games with a fractured wrist — tied the game with a pair of free throws.

“Everybody has to do their role,” junior guard Kerwin Roach II said. “Mo did an excellent job today defending inside and protecting the rim and the paint. All our guards need to do a better job closing out on the defensive end.”

Texas entered the locker room down 37-34, propelled by Bamba’s 16 points and eight rebounds.

Though the presence inside was as dominant as it has been all season, Texas struggled defending Kansas’ sharpshooters. The Jayhawks’ guard trio of Lagerald Vick, Devonte’ Graham and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk combined for 64 points on a 16-30 shooting from deep.

“(We were) not good enough,” Smart said. “I think Kansas deserves a lot of credit for the shots they knocked down. When three guys hit 16 threes, you gotta really take your hat off to them. But we’ve defended on the perimeter really well all year. And we were not as good, obviously, defending out there. Kansas had a lot to do with that.”

The Jayhawks came out of the break and looked to pull away. A pair of threes gave them a 51-41 lead.

A Bamba slam off of an offensive board cut the lead to six with under ten minutes to play. But Graham answered as he had all night — pulling up from behind the arc and draining one.

With under four minutes remaining and Kansas pulling ahead, 81- 69, Smart received a technical for arguing a call as the Jayhawks closed it out to move to 1–0 in the Big 12 standings.

“There were a couple of stretches where we didn’t have the defensive energy that we needed to have to stop a team like Kansas,” Smart said. “To stop those runs, particularly to start the second half.”

The Longhorns continue conference play on Monday with a road contest against Iowa State.

Photo Credit: Carlos Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

Friday night was supposed to usher in a new era of Texas basketball, and based on the Longhorns’ performance, it lived up to expectations. Loaded with a combination of young talent and returning veterans, Shaka Smart’s team delivered plenty of hope for the upcoming season to the 9,516 fans that watched the lopsided spectacle.

Texas rolled Northwestern State throughout, ending the contest at the Frank Erwin Center 105-59. And on an even more encouraging note, plenty of Texas’ struggles from last season became strengths in the 2017-18 opener.

“We still have a long way to go, a lot of things to improve on, but I think our guys shared the ball really well,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “I thought Mo (Bamba) and Dylan (Osetkowski) as a twosome just gave us a great spark early with the way that they played, the way that they rebounded.”

The night started with an emphatic putback dunk by five-star freshman center Mohamed Bamba. Bamba, a 6-foot-11 center with an NBA future, anchored the paint defensively and scored at will near the basket on offense. Bamba stuffed the stat sheet with a game-high 15 points, eight boards and four rejections.

“Whenever you can start off with a dunk on your first play, it pumps everyone up,” Bamba said. “Our message was we had something to prove. Last year wasn’t the greatest year for us and I’m saying ‘us’ because I was a part of that too.”

Bamba’s partner-in-crime, power forward Dylan Osetkowski, impressed in his Texas debut as well. The versatile big man displayed his arsenal of skills, nailing outside shots, boxing out to earn tough rebounds and even demonstrating an ability to handle the ball up the floor. The junior finished with a 13-point, 10-rebound double-double. He’ll be counted on throughout the season, bringing Texas’ rebounding and high-post success that it lacked a year ago.

“I’m just trying to bring a level of hustle, spirit, rebounding,” Osetkowski said. “My ability to shoot the ball is only to get better from here. And I’m gonna help space the floor out.”

The Longhorns shot 29.2 and 65 percent from three-point range and the charity stripe in 2016-17, respectively. Both of these facets of the game were noticeably improved in the early going on Friday night. Texas drew plenty of contact down low, resulting in numerous trips to the line. The team finished the first half 17-of-19 from the line and 5-of-14 from downtown.

But most importantly, Texas drilled each of its first four three-pointers and finished several dunks to establish early momentum and ignite the offensive attack. Seven Texas players scored in double-figures as the Longhorns finished over the century mark for the first time since December 2015.

Despite the offensive flashes, the Longhorns’ defense was arguably the strongest aspect of Texas’ game. Northwestern State couldn’t break through the Longhorns’ press in the first half and Texas’ aggressive defense, led by Kerwin Roach, forced 19 turnovers in the contest. Additionally, the Longhorns blanked the Demons 28-0 in points off of turnovers.

“With the new group we got in, we were able to pressure more, rotate guys in and we’re long and fast and athletic, so the more we can pressure people, we can get in our element playing fast,” sophomore point guard Andrew Jones said.

After completing the second largest blowout of the Smart era, Texas will look to continue the success on Tuesday night when New Hampshire comes to town.

Photo Credit: Carlos Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

A new season of Texas men’s basketball ignited on Friday night at the Frank Erwin Center as the Longhorns throttled Northwestern State, 105-59, in the season opener. With year three of the Shaka Smart era in Austin underway, there are high expectations for this team to turn things around after a dreadful 11-22 finish last season. Texas fans got to see a little bit of everything from Smart’s retooled roster on Friday night. Here are three thoughts from the season opener.

Mo Bamba makes his highly-anticipated debut

What Texas fans most wanted to see on Friday night was 6-foot-11, 225-pound freshman forward Mohamed Bamba. In pregame introductions, Bamba was the last starter to be called, and he subsequently received the loudest cheers from the crowd.

Bamba scored Texas’ first points of the game in thrilling fashion. Junior forward Dylan Osetkowski’s shot from the left side of the paint traveled too far, but Bamba was waiting for it on the opposite side. Bamba elevated to throw down a put-back slam to amp up the crowd in the early going. Not a bad way to begin his collegiate career.

Bamba led all Texas scorers with 15 points on 6-9 shooting, collecting eight rebounds along the way.

“We won’t see the best version of Mo this year,” Smart said after the game. “That’s way down the line. But we can see a really good version. I thought tonight was a precursor of that.”

Osetkowski showcases his versatility

Since last season, Smart has raved about Dylan Osetkowski and his untapped potential. The junior forward had to sit out last season after transferring from Tulane. All of that potential was forced to reside on the bench for a full season. But Osetkowski finally got to show off his versatility and athleticism on Friday night.

Both of those qualities were put on display in one standout play midway through the first half. Junior guard Kerwin Roach II fired a three from the corner, but the ball rattled off the front of the rim. Osetkowski came sprinting down the lane from near midcourt and in the blink of an eye slammed home a forceful put-back dunk to bring the crowd to life.

“Coach Smart always calls me a unicorn — a man of many talents,” Osetkowski said. “I was just so happy to get back out there and enjoy the experience.”

Osetkowski finished the night with a double-double, totaling 13 points and 10 rebounds. He may be the Swiss Army knife on this Texas team. He has a very good handle for a big man and can bring the ball up the floor in transition. He’s a scrapper down low in the paint and will do much of Texas’ dirty work this season — defending, rebounding and fighting for loose balls. And Osetkowski can also step outside and knock down a three, making him that much more difficult to guard.

Seven Longhorns finish in double figures

If Texas is going to be a serious competitor in the Big 12 this season and get back in the NCAA tournament, it will have to show consistent improvement on the offensive end, specifically from beyond the arc.

The Longhorns got off to a sizzling start from the three-point line on Friday night, opening the game 4-4. Texas finished 10-33 from three and shot 49 percent from the field. Seven Longhorns finished in double figures. Freshman point guard Matt Coleman had 14 points in his Texas debut and showed great poise running this improved run-and-gun offense.

“That’s the style of play we’ve been wanting to play for and we’ve been building to play for,” sophomore guard Andrew Jones said. “It showed tonight, and there’s only more to come.”

Texas men’s basketball head coach Shaka Smart previewed the upcoming season on Tuesday in Kansas City, Missouri, at the Big 12’s annual media day. Accompanying Smart in Kansas City were freshman forward Mohamed Bamba, sophomore guard Andrew Jones and junior forward Dylan Osetkowski.

Smart discussed a number of topics, including how Texas’ retooled roster is supposed to help the Longhorns bounce back from an abysmal 11-22 campaign last season.             

“We just have a lot more versatility than we had last year,” Smart said. “Last year there was a couple of positions where we didn’t have a guy at that spot that that was his true position.”

One of the big question marks with this season’s Texas squad is its consistency shooting the ball, especially from the three-point line. The Longhorns shot 29.2 percent from beyond the arc last season.                    

“I think we have some guys on our team that are better shooters than they shot last year,” Smart said. “It’s a matter of putting them in position to get high-quality shots as much as possible and then for them to jump up and knock ‘em down.”

Texas will open its season against Northwestern State on Nov. 10 at the Frank Erwin Center. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.