Ole Miss

Photo Credit: Angel Ulloa | Daily Texan Staff

With 10 games remaining in an up-and-down season, Saturday’s bout was about setting the tone for the final stretch.

And the message was clear.

Looking as dominant as the conference they represented, the Longhorns (14–7, 4–4 Big 12) cruised to an 85-72 victory over Ole Miss in the Big 12/SEC challenge at the Frank Erwin Center. The win gave Texas back-to-back wins for the first time in over a month.

“We came out here wanting to win,” junior guard Kerwin Roach II said. “We were just more hungry. We also wanted to win once we got back on the road, and this was a great way to start it.”

For a second straight game, freshman forward Mo Bamba recorded a career-high scoring performance, earning 25 points and collecting 15 rebounds to go along with four blocks.

“Mississippi came in with a level of physicality and aggressiveness — especially against Mo — but against all of our guys,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said. “We needed to stand up to that, and our guys did a nice job.”

Texas went straight at Ole Miss from the opening tip. The Longhorns’ starters came out firing, looking to punish the Rebels’ smaller lineup.

Bamba drew a foul on the opening possession while wrestling for position on the block. On the next possession, he motored into the paint and missed his first shot but corralled the rebound and laid it up amid the sea of arms around the rim.

Junior forward Dylan Osetkowski built on the early aggression, getting to the line twice in the first five minutes to give Texas an early 7-3 lead.

Roach picked up right where he left off after a career night against Iowa State on Monday.

Osetkowski skipped a pass outside after being double-teamed in the post, and Roach buried the open triple. Moments later, Roach connected on a second shot from three off a high screen, and Texas took a 15-10 lead over the Rebels.

But midway through the first half, Texas was briefly without its interior stopper as Bamba headed to the locker room to be evaluated for a left thigh injury.

Ole Miss took advantage of Bamba’s absence and began to close the gap, as sophomore forward Dominik Olejniczak rattled off 14 points in the first half.

Bamba soon returned, and the momentum shifted firmly back in Texas’ favor. With time winding down before the break, Roach found Osetkowski under the rim on a no-look assist for the and-one play. On the next possession, Coleman hit Osetkowski in the same spot, and Texas took a 33-28 lead — part of six straight points for Osetkowski.

Freshman guard Jase Febres connected on two threes, and Osetkowski converted a third layup as Texas pulled ahead by double-digits. Texas led 45-36 at halftime with two players already in double-figures.

On the opening play of the second half, Coleman dropped off a pass to Bamba under the rim for a two-handed slam. On the next two possessions, the Rebels sent Osetkowski and Bamba to the line to add to the Texas lead.

Roach then found a layup in transition, and Bamba pinned his defender for another easy dunk as Texas built a double-digit lead. By the 12-minute mark, the Longhorns’ second unit had ballooned the lead to 60-45.

Bamba added a few more rim-rocking slams and a highlight block as Texas coasted down the final stretch.

“We needed to get on a win streak,” Bamba said. “This was a very challenging team. But we see no reason why we can’t keep winning.”

Texas now sets its sights on the second half of Big 12 play, starting with a road game against Texas Tech on Monday. The Red Raiders have yet to lose at home this season.

“We wanted to get our mind right going back into conference,” Roach said of Saturday’s win. “Start the second half of conference on a new page, and just get on the road and get into it.”

Photo Credit: Angel Ulloa | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns took a break from their conference schedule on Saturday and hosted Ole Miss in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Here are five takeaways from Texas' 85-72 victory:

Roach continues shooting streak

Until a few weeks ago, junior guard Kerwin Roach II’s offensive specialty was scoring around the rim. He entered this season as a 30.3-percent 3-point shooter, but since returning from a hand injury, the junior has been lethal from range. In his return to the court against Texas Tech on Jan. 17, Roach drained multiple threes for just the second time in the season. He followed this performance up by exploding for a season-best of four threes on five attempts against Iowa State.

Roach has clearly gained confidence in his shot, and he converted on his first two threes in the early portion of the first half on Saturday against Ole Miss to boost the Longhorns’ offense. Roach now sits at a respectable 9-of-18 from deep in his last four games.

Bamba briefly leaves game with injury

Freshman center Mo Bamba quickly impacted the game with his rebounding. But during the early stages of the opening half, Bamba also left the court and headed to the locker room with a trainer. Bamba’s left thigh was evaluated during the time, per Texas.

He quickly returned to the hardwood and was inserted into the game with 9:52 left in the first half. Bamba played the remainder of the game without any struggle, dropping in a new career-high 25 points and hauling in 15 rebounds in just 28 minutes. Bamba’s shooting has improved as of late as he swished his only three of the day and knocked down 12-of-13 from the charity stripe.

Osetkowski’s offensive rebounding pays off

Dylan Osetkowski absolutely dominated from the low block on Saturday. The junior power forward finished with 17 points and seven rebounds. Four of those rebounds occurred on the offensive end of the floor, and Osetkowski was easily able to get in position to grab boards as soon as a shot was launched.

Texas scored 14 second-chance points in the victory, and Osetkowski’s presence was a primary reason why the Longhorns were able to make the most out of their offensive possessions.

Texas struggles to stop post-hook, but adjusts

Although Bamba and Osetkowski dominated in the paint offensively, the Longhorns initially struggled with containing Ole Miss center Dominik Olejniczak. The 7-foot Polish big man dropped in 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting in the first half alone, often repeating the same move in the post.

His hook shot from down low was virtually unstoppable without a double-team, and it was a surprise Ole Miss didn’t use him more often. All but two of his points were in the first half, and the Rebels’ offense vanished during the second half when Olejniczak wasn’t frequently utilized. Olejniczak attempted just four field goals in the second half, none of which landed in the cylinder.

Longhorns continue to thrive at home

Big 12 play hasn’t been too kind to the Longhorns, as they entered Saturday with a conference record of 4–4. Texas (14–7) got four days off without traveling before the matchup with the SEC’s Ole Miss, and the Longhorns were able to coast to a 13-point victory over the Rebels.

The win marked Texas’ fourth consecutive home triumph, and head coach Shaka Smart’s team improved to 10–2 at the Frank Erwin Center this season. Although the Longhorns have consistently brought their A-game in Austin, this was their first double-digit win on their own hardwood since Dec. 16’s 75-60 final over Louisiana Tech.