Photo Credit: Carlos Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

Andrew’s back, tell a friend. Sophomore guard Andrew Jones, who has been battling leukemia since January, had a good time at the Texas women’s NCAA Tournament game. Fans got a glimpse of him on Saturday sitting on the sideline with Chris Plonsky, Texas’ women’s athletic director, as the 2nd-seeded Longhorns took on 15th-seeded Maine at home.

It was Jones’ first time back in Austin since his diagnosis. After his visit, sophomore guard/forward Joyner Holmes tweeted out some supportive words, showing the large size of the Longhorn family.

On Sunday, Jones tweeted a video of himself sinking hoops at the gym in Dallas with Tim Martin, a basketball player development coach. The video has caught the attention of many and has around 113,000 views, 1,000 retweets and 4,000 likes. Many fans commented on the post sending Jones well-wishes, including Gerald Sledge, Central High School’s head boys basketball coach, who has been helping Jones “get back in (his) groove.”

It was tough not having Jones on the court after Texas basketball’s last-minute loss to Nevada this past week, but the Longhorns have their fingers crossed that the sophomore phenom will be back to lead them on the court next season. In the meantime, fans have been happy to see that Jones has kept his head up despite the difficult circumstances.

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

No. 2-seeded Texas cruised to an 83-54 victory over No. 15-seeded Maine on Saturday evening in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. With the win, the Longhorns will take on No. 7-seeded Arizona State on Monday at 8 p.m.

Here are four takeaways from Saturday’s game:

Longhorns box out

Texas used every inch of its reach advantage to build a 43-12 advantage on the boards. Maine never grabbed more than two rebounds in a single quarter.

Sophomore guard Blanca Millan secured the first board of the game for the Black Bears at the 2:17 mark in the first quarter. By the end of the quarter, sophomore forward Joyner Holmes had more rebounds (five) than Maine’s entire team (two).

Texas head coach Karen Aston emphasized to her team before the game how important winning the rebounding battle would be.

“That was one of the things that we actually had on the (team’s) board,” junior guard Lashann Higgs said. “It was like ‘rebound,’ with an exclamation mark, so we knew exactly what we tried to do was rebound.”

Brooke McCarty takes it easy

Brooke McCarty tied with Holmes for a team-high seven rebounds. But she didn’t show the same aggression on offense.

The senior guard didn’t take a shot until late in the second quarter. McCarty knocked down a trey off a dime from junior forward Olamide Aborowa with four seconds left in the half. She didn’t take her next shot until the 7:47 mark in the fourth quarter.

McCarty finished the game with seven points on 2-of-3 shooting and two assists. Aston was still pleased with the point guard’s performance, especially on the boards.

“I love point guards that rebound,” Aston said. “She's discovered ways to maneuver and pick up the loose ones when people box out. But I do love point guards that rebound, because we like to transition and it obviously starts your transition game if your point guard already has the ball in her hands.”

Ariel Atkins is made for March

Senior guard Ariel Atkins had much more success on offense. She hunted for open looks and knocked them down at every turn. She drained a triple from the right corner in Texas’ first possession of the game and never looked back.

Atkins finished the game with 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting, including 2-of-3 from deep. She was just as effective in everything else, racking up four rebounds, four assists and two steals. She hopes the performance carries over moving forward in the NCAA Tournament.

“I think it gives us a good amount of confidence,” Atkins said. “I think the confidence comes from knowing what we did. We focused on their tendencies and what they did well. And I think we actually used our preparation and listened to our coaches and we stuck with the game plan. I think that's where the confidence comes from.”

So much for trimming the rotation

Aston knows she’ll need to cut down on her bench minutes at some point during the NCAA Tournament. But as long as her team can build a lead, as it did against Maine, she’s happy to give her starters a rest.

“We were able, luckily, in the Big 12 Tournament to play a lot of people because we did have a lead in both games where we were able to do that,” Aston said at Texas’ pregame press conference on Friday. “I mean, the rotation trims in tournament play. I think that's a realistic statement. I think the bigger key is just getting everybody prepared, even if it's a minute or two.”

Texas led 23-8 by the end of the first quarter, and Aston turned to her substitutes. The bench players combined for 128 minutes and 19 points. Each player was on the floor for at least 12 minutes.

“You just don't ever know when your number's going to get called in NCAA Tournament play,” Aston said after the game. “So I think it was very good for everyone to get some playing time and get their feet wet with the NCAA Tournament.”

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

Ariel Atkins jogged onto the court at the Frank Erwin Center on Saturday determined to survive.

For four years the senior guard had given the Texas program everything she had. Now she found herself in what could be the final chapter of her collegiate career, taking on 15-seeded Maine in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

Saturday would not be the end, though, as Atkins willed the Longhorns to a statement 83-54 win in a game that was over from the jump.

“I was very pleased with how we started the game,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said. “I thought that our team was very locked in. We paid attention to detail, shot the ball well and did a lot of things really sharply.”

Atkins set the tone in the opening quarter, sinking an uncontested three from the corner on Texas’ first possession. It took just two minutes for her to get the ball behind the arc again — this time drilling the long-range bomb right in front of an outstretched Maine defender.

But Atkins wasn’t finished. The Duncanville, Texas, native soared to the rim among the bigs with 4:34 left, snagging an offensive rebound and converting on the easy putback to give Texas a 14-6 lead.

Maine head coach Amy Vachon burned the Black Bears’ first timeout shortly afterward, desperate to get her team back on track.

It didn’t work. The Longhorns closed the quarter on a 9-0 run to take a commanding 23-8 lead.

“We definitely knew that we needed to be focused,” Atkins said. “We knew what (Maine) was capable of doing, so that was important for us (early on).”

Texas fed off Atkins’ intensity, opening up a 56-24 lead by the midway point of the third quarter. Atkins kept attacking, pulling up on a fastbreak and draining a shot from the free throw line.

The senior called for the ball once again on the following possession, drifting to the corner and hitting on a mid-range jumper to give the Longhorns a 60-26 advantage with 4:44 to go in the third.

Atkins’ night came to a close with 4:53 left in the fourth quarter as Aston subbed out her starters. The Longhorns finished the game with ease.

Atkins totaled 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the victory. Junior forward Jatarie White also had a strong outing, posting a game-high 17 points in 20 minutes.

The win is a strong start to the tournament for a Texas team that enters the postseason clicking on all cylinders.

“We definitely are playing as more of a team,” junior guard Lashann Higgs said. “That’s something that we’ve been working on throughout the season. It’s been a fun year.”

The road to Texas’ first Final Four appearance since 2003 continues on Monday as the Longhorns host 7-seeded Arizona State at 8 p.m. The Sun Devils enter the second round matchup fresh off a 73-62 victory over 10-seeded Nebraska on Saturday.

Although the game will mark Atkins’ final outing in front of the fans at the Frank Erwin Center, the senior hopes it won’t be her last time in burnt orange.

All she has to do is survive.

“They’ve been the best fans that I’ve ever been around,” Atkins said. “I’m just so thankful for this program and everything it’s done for me.”

Sophomore pitcher Blair Henley delivers a pitch during Texas’ game against Louisiana-Lafayette on Feb. 18. Henley kept the Tigers off the board for six innings during Texas’ 11-1  victory on Sunday afternoon. 

Photo Credit: Katie Bauer | Daily Texan Staff

Texas seems to have found its stride entering conference play. After a five-game losing streak to end the nonconference season, the Longhorns are back on track.

Texas (11–9) took the opening game of the series against Kansas on Friday, and the Longhorns won again on Saturday, this time by a score of 4-0.

The story of the game was sophomore starting pitcher Blair Henley, who threw seven complete innings, allowing just five hits and zero runs. Henley came into the day with a 2–1 record in four appearances and sported a 2.35 ERA. Saturday’s numbers will further his impressive statistics for the year.

One of Henley’s more impressive traits relative to his fellow Texas pitchers is his command of the fastball. His ability to place the ball down in the zone this year has helped him out immensely, especially against an early-season schedule that was loaded with fastball hitters.

Texas head coach David Pierce even went as far as to say that Henley’s fastball command was “outstanding.”

“We just did our job all around (today),” Henley said. “(I) commanded the fastball again, like I try to do every week. Then I mixed my other two, three pitches in when I had to. Other than that, all we had to do is go out there and compete like we do every time.”

Another revelation from the pitching staff Saturday was the long-awaited return of a solid pitching performance from junior closer Beau Ridgeway.

Ridgeway, who has struggled on the mound recently no matter the situation, finally showed Texas fans a glimpse of the dominant reliever he had proven himself to be over the last two years.

Ridgeway came into a tough situation with zero outs in the eighth inning, with men on first and second base. His performance was nothing short of fantastic, as he made quick work of the eighth and was lights-out in the ninth. In total, Ridgeway threw for two complete innings and allowed zero runs and only one hit.

“For him to come in and get the job done was as big for him as it was for the team,” Pierce said. “Just another confidence booster. When I went to the mound, I started saying and rattling a bunch of stuff to him, then I finally just looked at him and said, ‘Believe in yourself and compete.’ And that’s what he did.”

Offensively, Texas had an average day at the plate. The team only scored four runs on seven hits and surprisingly struggled to put good swings on the ball. The Longhorns were able to do more than enough, however, as the four runs comfortably gave Texas the win.

Junior infielder Kody Clemens, though, continued to play out of his mind. He went 2-4 at the plate and had two RBIs. His shining moment of the game was his solo home run in the bottom of the first inning. Clemens showed that he has plenty of power, as he made it a team-leading five home runs on the season.

“(Kody’s) not only a leader, he’s just fun,” Pierce said. “He plays the game with energy. He plays the game with passion. And when he’s swinging it well, he’s as good as anybody.”

Texas will play its final game of the Kansas series on Sunday, looking for a sweep. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.

Photo Credit: Juan Figueroa | Daily Texan Staff

Ariel Atkins has become Texas’ level-headed, battle-tested leader over her four years with the team. But on Friday, for the first time in a long time, she was anxious.  

The Longhorns had just wrapped up their usual practice routine at the Frank Erwin Center, running the fast break, knocking down threes and working on post moves.

This practice was different, though. It marked the final session before the second-seeded Longhorns’ Saturday matchup against fifteen-seeded Maine in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

And although a loss would mean the end of Texas’ season, for Atkins, it would mean the end of an era.

“I guess you could say it's not nerve-wracking, but it is butterflies,” Atkins said. “This is my last time, my last chance to be a part of this program. Just can’t say enough about it.”

Atkins first stepped foot on the 40 Acres in the summer of 2014, joining a Longhorns team that had just suffered yet another early exit in the NCAA Tournament the previous season. The Duncanville, Texas, native made an immediate impact, making 19 starts and helping Texas to its first Sweet 16 appearance in a decade.

Fast forward 1,367 points and 106 wins later, and the senior gunslinger is now on her last ride, determined to extend it.

“It’s one of those things where you don’t want it to end,” Atkins said. “I love this team and everything about this program. I’m just thankful to be here and excited to keep it going.”

Texas’ tournament run starts with an opening-round matchup against a Maine team that’s carrying a six-game win streak into the postseason. The Black Bears are led by a backcourt duo of sophomore Blanca Millan and junior Tanesha Sutton, who combined for an average of 29.8 points per game during the regular season.

“They can shoot the three really well,” head coach Karen Aston said. “But they can score in a lot of different ways, so we’re going to have to be really good on defense.”

Atkins will have plenty of backcourt help herself, though, as fellow senior guard Brooke McCarty will also look to extend her collegiate career. The dynamic duo has been the driving force to Texas’ success over the past four years, leading the Longhorns all the way to the Elite Eight in 2016.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily hit me yet,” McCarty said. “It’s crazy to think this is our last go around. I'm just taking it day by day, having fun with it and enjoying these last moments.”

Texas will look to lean on Atkins and McCarty once more come Saturday as the Longhorns deal with a depleted frontcourt. Senior forward Audrey-Ann Caron-Goudreau has been out since Feb. 10 with a bruised left wrist, and freshman forward Rellah Boothe was declared unavailable for the postseason on Thursday due to an undisclosed personal reason.

“I think (Caron-Goudreau and Boothe) definitely are important to our team,” McCarty said. “But we have the people who we have, so we need to play, go to the next day, and keep rolling.”

Texas will have plenty of support in the stands, though, as the Longhorns will host the match in front of their fans at the Frank Erwin Center at 5 p.m. on Saturday – something Atkins has come to appreciate over the years

“It'll definitely be exciting to see them screaming and hollering and going crazy for us,” Atkins said. “They’ve always shown support, so it means a lot to be able to play in front of them again.”

Although Saturday’s matchup could be Atkins and McCarty’s last time in burnt orange, the senior duo remains focused; determined to earn the Final Four appearance that’s eluded them thus far.

Until then, it’s business as usual.

“I think (McCarty and I) came here and have given Texas everything we have,” Atkins said. “But we still have more to go. At this point it's just fighting for the next day.”

Photo Credit: Angel Ulloa | Daily Texan Staff

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A season of highs and lows came to an end on Friday night.

And when it did — boy, was Texas low.

After surrendering a 14-point second half lead, the Longhorns found themselves bounced in the first round of the NCAA Tournament for a third consecutive time.

Texas now heads to the offseason with the future uncertain and its most important player on his way out.

Here are four thoughts on the loss:

Ball movement beat out individual talent

Nevada was undersized and outmanned. Three Texas players stood taller than the entire Wolf Pack roster, but better fundamental basketball won out in Nashville.

On the opening play of the game, Nevada whipped the ball through the lane and around the perimeter in a sequence of truly brilliant basketball. The team found a shooter on the wing on its second possession, completely open, to jump out to a 5-0 lead.

While the Wildcats forced the defense to rotate, Texas found the majority of its baskets on isolation opportunities and put backs. For every Bamba dunk and junior Kerwin Roach II step back, the Wolf Pack answered with backdoor cuts and complicated screen plays for shooters.

Up and down the roster Texas boasted bigger and more talented individual players. But Nevada played as five, and advanced as a result.

Bamba's foul trouble exposed Texas’ other big men defenders

When Bamba patrolled the lane, the rim was closed for business. The forward sent away and altered nearly every attempt within three feet, and quickly Nevada got the memo.

Only once in regulation did a member of the Wolf Pack try to meet Bamba at the rim.

Just once.

When they did, Bamba snatched the ball out of the air with almost comical ease, foiling the dunk attempt and ending the possession.

But over the course of three minutes, with time dwindling in the second half, Bamba picked up his second foul, then his third, then his fourth. For much of the remaining time in regulation and all of overtime Texas’ rim protector watched from the bench as Osetkowski and Sims put up all of the resistance of a sieve holding back water.

Osetkowski didn’t pick up a foul for himself until the game had been all but decided. On possession after possession the forward allowed his man to find the rim on backdoor cuts and drives to the rim.

Osetkowski played as if he was the one in foul trouble, and the defensive lapses with Bamba sidelined exposed the slower Longhorn big men.

Even in a loss, Bamba outclassed his opponents

Texas may have been the lower seed, but it certainly wasn’t the underdog. And indeed, according to ESPN, less than half of the submitted brackets picked Nevada to win.

Bamba towered over every other player on the floor, exerting his will on both ends.

Early in the contest the forward muscled his way past a noticeably smaller defender and made a reverse dunk when the defense rotated to contest.

To the 17,552 people in attendance and the millions more watching at home, it was abundantly clear that Bamba was far and away the best player on the floor. But time and time again Texas failed to find its big man under the rim.

Bamba only took 11 shots in 31 minutes, most of which came on putbacks. His limited impact against a team who he should have dominated only highlighted the Longhorn disconnect.

Texas isn’t built to win shootouts

All season long, shooting, specifically threes, has been the achilles heel for this squad. Texas has hung its hat on defensive intensity and interior presence.

By the end of the game on Friday, that strategy had been thrown out the window in favor of a run and gun style. The Longhorns tried to match pace with Nevada, a team whose lack of size has forced them to embrace an offense of uptempo pace and lots of threes.

In overtime, the two teams were simply trading baskets. Bamba’s absence played a role, but Texas abandoned its identity, and in doing so, tried to beat Nevada at its own game.

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A 14-point second-half lead, career performances by guards Matt Coleman and Kerwin Roach II and a lopsided height advantage in the paint — the 10-seeded Texas Longhorns had everything pointed in their favor in the second half of their opening March Madness game against 7-seeded Nevada.

But minute by minute, the Wolf Pack scratched, clawed and erased the Longhorns’ dreams of attaining their first tournament victory since 2014.

A dejected Texas team trotted off the court empty-handed, wondering about the what-ifs and could-haves. The season concluded to the tune of an 87-83 overtime loss to Nevada.

“In a game like today, we need to add one or two more winning plays,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said. “That's the difference. One more stop, one more rebound. It's a cruel, hard assessment. But in games like this that go in overtime — and we've been in as many as anyone in the country — one play does make the difference.”

Nevada’s impeccable 6-of-6 shooting in the overtime period completed the Wolf Pack’s dramatic comeback over the Longhorns in Nashville. But to even get to the overtime period, Nevada asserted its physicality in the final seconds, down 68-67.

Just 3.8 seconds away from defeat, Nevada power forward Jordan Caroline showed no fear of freshman center Mo Bamba, posting the 7-footer up and drawing a crucial foul call in the paint. Bamba, who entered halftime with zero fouls, fouled out in presumably his final collegiate game.

Caroline’s first free throw bricked off the back iron. His second, with the season on the line, sunk through the fibers of the net. The Longhorns turned the ball over on an errant inbounds pass, giving Nevada an unlikely chance to win in regulation.

Caleb Martin airballed the buzzer-beating three, but that would be the Wolf Pack’s final miss from the floor Friday evening.

“I just think that us fighting and Jordan going up and hitting the big free throw to tie it up to go into overtime gave us confidence,” Nevada small forward Caleb Martin said. “You could kind of tell when we walked back on the floor, you could tell the energy of (Texas) was low.”

Despite Bamba’s absence, overtime opened up in a favorable manner for the Longhorns. Coleman, who had a career-high 25 points, drilled a three on the first possession and Roach, who finished with a career-high 26, followed it up with his second 4-point play of the day — nailing a triple from the corner and drawing contact.

“During (overtime), I was just trying to impact, you know, rub some energy off my teammates, try and impact the game as much as possible even from the sideline,” Bamba said.

Texas led 77-73, but Nevada’s long-distance shooting caught fire at the optimal time.

“Across the board, we just got guys that have played in hostile environments,” Nevada point guard Kendall Stephens said of the chaotic start to overtime. “We've been there before so we know that all we need is a chance. We're confident. Once we get back down the court, we're able to score effectively, and that's what we did.”

The Wolf Pack converted on three Caleb Martin threes in the extended period, creating disarray in Texas’ defense. Trailing 85-80, Roach wound up connecting on an NBA range three, but the clock did not allow for enough time for Texas to charge back from the deficit.

Nevada continues dancing Sunday in the second round against Cincinnati, while Texas laments on how a nine-point halftime lead and a 14-point second-half advantage with 18:42 to go evaporated so rapidly. From the 17:59 mark until 2:26 remained in overtime, the winning team did not lead once.

“Being up nine in an NCAA tournament game, you know the other team's going to really do everything they can to make a run,” Smart said. “Obviously, at that point, (Nevada) had nothing to lose. They were behind, they were attacking and we just didn't do enough to match them.”

Texas finished its season at 19–15, still without a tournament win over a higher-seeded team since 2002. The Longhorns’ roller coaster season, which featured an NCAA-high eight overtime games, concluded in Nashville.

Photo Credit: Anthony Mireles | Daily Texan Staff

While it’s just a number, 850 signified something greater for 22-year coaching veteran Connie Clark on Thursday night.

Lifted by a three-run shot from senior first baseman Paige von Sprecken in the fifth inning, Clark picked up her 850th career victory as head coach of the Texas program, as the Longhorns (10–11) edged out Coastal Carolina (14–11) for a 5-3 win in Conway, South Carolina.

“(850 wins) means I’ve been doing this a long time with a lot of great athletes,” Clark said. “Most important (thing) about tonight was getting back into the win column.”

The Longhorns jumped out ahead in the first inning after freshman second baseman Janae Jefferson scored from third base on a sacrifice fly to left field by freshman third baseman MK Tedder.

In the second inning, the Texas offense added another run, reversing a recent inability to capitalize on opponents’ mistakes. Following an error to start the inning that allowed senior designated player Randel Leahy to reach base, sophomore shortstop Kaitlyn Slack stepped to the plate and poked an RBI single to right field, giving the Longhorns a 2-0 lead.

But Coastal Carolina quickly responded in the bottom of the frame. With two runners on base, junior designated player Natalie David shifted momentum back in the Chanticleers’ favor with a three-run shot to left field off junior pitcher Erica Wright to give Coastal Carolina a 3-2 lead.

Following a scoreless fourth inning, the Longhorns rallied in the fifth with consecutive singles from Jefferson and junior center fielder Ki’Audra Hayter. With opportunity knocking, von Sprecken roped a three-run home run down the left field line to give the Longhorns a 5-3 lead.

“Off the bat it felt pretty good, so I had a feeling it was going out,” von Sprecken said. “It’s just nice to give the team the lead and get us back in the win column.”

Senior pitcher Kristen Clark took matters from there, shutting down Coastal Carolina in the final three innings to the tune of one hit and two strikeouts to cement the Texas win.

“We’ve had a really challenging schedule, but we’ve competed well with all of our opponents,” von Sprecken said. “Getting back in the win column lets us feel more comfortable going into this weekend, and especially heading into conference.”

Photo Credit: Angel Ulloa | Daily Texan Staff

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Country and rock music echo through the streets of downtown Nashville as basketball fans previously dispersed across the nation flock together to Bridgestone Arena for a weekend full of March Madness.

For many Texas players, this will be their first rodeo. The Longhorns were devoid of college basketball’s biggest stage last March, but head coach Shaka Smart powered his young roster to 19 wins, drawing a 10-seed in the 68-team bracket. Now, the third-year head coach is searching for his first win in the tournament since stepping into the job in Austin back in 2015.

Assuming junior shooting guard Eric Davis Jr. does not play, junior swingman Kerwin Roach II is responsible for all 12 total minutes of tournament experience in Texas’ supply. But what Texas (19–14) lacks in experience, it makes up for in its formidable frontcourt duo of two newcomers — junior power forward Dylan Osetkowski and freshman center Mo Bamba, both ready to guide Texas to its first tournament victory since 2014.

“You look at some of the Texas greats like KD (Kevin Durant) and T.J. Ford and the legacy they left on the program is mainly based on what they did in March,” Bamba said. “The opportunity and the platform is there for me now. It's just my time to seize it.”

Bamba, who has been battling a toe injury for several weeks, claims he is “100 percent” for the Round of 64 contest against 7-seed Nevada (27–7) after playing just 14 minutes in Texas’ two-game Big 12 Tournament run. The NBA Draft hopeful is poised for a productive day against the mismatched Wolf Pack. Bamba stands 7-feet tall, while Nevada doesn’t boast a single player on its roster above the height of 6-foot-7.

“When that ball goes up in the air, (having something to prove is) what it's really about,” Smart said. “And (Bamba’s) very motivated. One of the things that we've tried to help him understand this season is some of the guys you're going up against on a night in, night out basis, they're a lot better than maybe you thought they were coming in.”

Texas cannot afford to overlook the higher-seeded, regular season Mountain West champion Nevada, who fell victim to a 90-73 thrashing from San Diego State in the Mountain West tournament. The Wolf Pack operate a high-octane, quick-tempoed offense, ranking 17th in the nation scoring 83.1 points per game. Nevada shoots the three-ball at a much higher rate (39.8 percent) than Texas (31.5), so Friday afternoon’s clash on the hardwood will be a struggle between differentiating styles.

“We like to say we're cosmetically pleasing at times, getting the ball up the floor as fast as we can and spacing out,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. “Having said that, we've got to be better than them for one game, for 40 minutes. But yeah, they're long and we're not.”

Nevada presents several challenges for the Longhorns, one of which includes guarding the duo of brothers Caleb and Cody Martin. The identical twins combine for 32.7 points, 11.6 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game. Shaka Smart attempted to recruit the two during his VCU tenure, but the twins instead committed to NC State, before transferring west and landing in Reno.

“The challenges that they present, they're extremely versatile,” Smart said. “They play every position for (Nevada) because of the way they play. But both of them, their natural position is kind of small forward, big wing. That's one spot we don't have.”

Smart continued on how vital the twins’ contributions are to the current state of Nevada basketball, claiming their numbers would be in the rafters had they come to VCU.

“Caleb is a phenomenal scorer. He's always been wired to score. He's extremely confident. He really gets going. His first step is very, very fast,” Smart said. “Cody is as versatile as there is in college basketball. He literally can do anything you ask a guy to do on the court, rebound, defend, play point guard, initiate offense, shoot, drive, post up. Whatever you need.”

But Smart will play the cards he was dealt to counter Nevada’s quickness, including freshman point guard Matt Coleman. Coleman’s development from November to present day has been noteworthy, and plenty of pressure will be on the 20-year old freshman to ensure Texas’ backcourt does enough to advance past Nevada and earn a ticket to the second round against Cincinnati or Georgia State on Sunday.

“As a point guard, I always want to find ways to get my big fellas involved here,” Coleman said. “So I'm going to do everything I can to always make sure their presence is felt offensively and defensively. If it's giving them the ball, making them run the floor, just getting them involved.”

Despite the team’s status as a 10-seed, the Longhorns are already dreaming big of what their 18th tournament appearance in 20 years could culminate to — a trip to San Antonio for the Final Four. Texas’ road to the Final Four starts Friday at 3:30 p.m.

“Personally, I would love to have that feeling of being a freshman, going all the way to the Final Four,” Coleman said. “That's what you dream of. You dream of playing in March and having an opportunity to actually be here is why not make the best of it?”

Former Texas baseball coach Augie Garrido passed away at age 79 on Thursday morning. 

Photo Credit: Pearce Murphy | Daily Texan Staff

Texas head coach David Pierce remembers the first time he crossed paths with former head coach Augie Garrido.

Pierce was a restricted earnings coach for Rice. Garrido was the head coach for Cal State Fullerton. The two teams squared off for a game during the 1991 season.

Garrido’s team took an early lead and rode it throughout the matchup. By the seventh inning, the Titans led, 7-0. Pierce’s team was frustrated. His pitcher tried pegging the next batter, who took exception. The two teams began brawling on the field and multiple players were ejected.

“Right then is when I knew (Garrido) was somebody special,” Pierce said. “He was planning to win the game and that's what he felt like he had to do.”

When Garrido resigned as Texas’ head coach in 2016, he remained close to the program as a special assistant to then-athletic director Mike Perrin. When Pierce arrived as Garrido’s replacement, the pair already had a mutual respect for each other.

“I’m thankful for our friendship,” Garrido said in his last text message to Pierce before his passing on Thursday morning.

“I'm just thankful that I was around him but really, really thankful that he embraced me,” Pierce said. “That says it all for me. I mean he has become one of my very good friends over the past couple of years. And so, there's so many people in our building that are struggling right now with his loss. I'm up here speaking on behalf of all those that Coach Garrido is truly missed.”

Garrido’s loss has been hard for many people. Hundreds of people have reached out to the team wishing to give their thoughts, prayers and condolences.

“Obviously, it's a sad day for a program, sad day for college baseball,” director of baseball operations Drew Bishop said. “You get to see what his reach was really easily in a situation like this.”

Bishop played for Garrido at Texas from 2005–2008. He noticed during his career that Garrido always knew the right thing to say in any situation — not just baseball. It helped him stay in touch with his players, even in retirement.

“A lot of times it's not about baseball, it's really, it’s life, it’s about friendship,” Bishop said. “You know, he would care a lot more about how we were doing individually than he would ever wonder or have any idea or any knowledge or feel for baseball.”

Pierce and Bishop will turn their attention to consoling Texas’ current players and helping them move past the loss. They’ll try to find the right thing to say, just as Garrido used to.

“I want to tell them what he means to me and I want to tell them what he means to our game and to so many people that he cross paths with,” Pierce said. “And I want them to really appreciate what they have and reflect on what we could possibly become. I just want him to be a part of our program like he always has.”

“I know and anybody that knows him, he wouldn't want us to spend more than a second sad about it,” Bishop said.