Longhorns sink Midshipmen in opener

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It took more than the first half for the Longhorns to start having fun Monday night in routing Navy 83-52 in the season opener.

The light turned on for Texas early in the second half as they quit settling for three-point attempts and began attacking the Midshipmen zone defense at will.

“It was a lot of fun,” forward Jordan Hamilton said.

A 21-4 run starting with 15:30 remaining in the game included everything from rim-rattling dunks to swished long-range attempts.

The Longhorns, who led by nine at halftime, began widening their lead when forward Hamilton took an extra step inside the three-point line to sink a mid-range jumper.

Hamilton finished with 26 points, 21 of which came in the second half, and 10 rebounds for his second career double-double.

Following a Jai Lucas layup off a fastbreak, J’Covan Brown sprinted off a rebound and hit a trailing Hamilton for a dunk.

Less than a minute later, Brown once again found a high-flying Hamilton for an alley-oop and a 19-point lead.

“[They were] two great passes from J’Covan Brown,” Hamilton said. “He finds guys in the open court and it helped us in transition.”

After making the first basket of the game, a three-pointer at the baseline, Hamilton cooled down, missing his other five attempts of the first half. In the second half, Hamilton caught fire, hitting nine of his 11 shots.

“He wants to learn the game and not just on the offensive side of it,” Texas head coach Rick Barnes said. “He really was working hard on the defensive end. He made some really nice passes, got to the board. He did a little bit of everything.”

Once Hamilton got things going, the entire team caught on. The Longhorns shot 57.1 percent from the field in second half. Most of the field goals came from the Longhorns pounding the ball into the paint in the second half.

The Longhorns shied away from an inside game in the first half, settling for outside shots.
“It was there. We could have done it earlier, but we didn’t,” Barnes said.

The Midshipmen’s zone defense was something that the Longhorns had not practiced against much.
“We didn’t really know what to expect from them,” Barnes said. “They kept us off-balance a bit.”

In running their offense against an unfamiliar defensive scheme, the Longhorns had to settle with forced long-range shots in the first half.

“They were very anxious early,” Barnes said. “We were taking shots that weren’t supposed to be taken.”

During the Longhorns’ second-half surge, they began running the court which created easy attempts near the basket.

Junior forward Alexis Wangmene, who missed much of last season, got in on the action becoming the recipient of assists from both senior forward Gary Johnson and Brown.

Brown scored seven points and a career-high six assists but also turned the ball over five times.

The rust was visible as the Longhorns came out of the gate. Passes were thrown out of bounds. Poor shots were taken. Free throws were missed. But in a season opener, that is something that has become expected.

“I don’t want to be perfect tonight,” Barnes said.