Big men? Who needs ‘em.
In their season-opener, the Longhorns ran right past Boston 82-46 Sunday in the first round of the TicketCity Legends Classic, relying on strong perimeter play that more than made up for their size deficiencies down low.
“We did get hurt on the offensive boards, but I do think we tried hard,” said Texas head coach Rick Barnes.
Going with a starting five that featured no player taller than 6-foot-7 — the height of both Alexis Wangmene and Jonathan Holmes — Texas got nearly all of its scoring from the outside. Junior shooting guard J’Covan Brown led the team with 28 points, tying a career high, and connected on three shots from the three-point line. With the Longhorns shooting 38 percent in the first half, Brown stepped up, scoring 16 of his 28 points.
“Some nights I might have a good night, but these guys will still have to step up and score,” Brown said.
The Longhorns (1-0) looked overmatched at times on the interior, allowing Boston 10 offensive rebounds in the first half alone. But that’s the risk you take when you trot out a lineup heavy on guards, the reward of that being the ability to stretch the floor. Texas cashed in on that, scoring 15 fast break points.
“Their speed and quickness took it out of us,” said Boston’s first-year coach Joe Jones. “They need to be happy with what they did.”
“We’ve got guys who can shoot the ball and we’re going to get out and run in transition,” Barnes said.
Texas took advantage of an open perimeter with 11 three-point baskets, four coming from freshman guard Julien Lewis, who was most effective standing in the corner and capitalizing on catch-and-shoot opportunities.
“That’s Julien’s job,” said freshman point guard Myck Kabongo. “Everybody has a job, and that’s his, to knock down open shots.”
Lewis got all but three of 18 points in the second half and undoubtedly benefited from the Terriers (0-2) paying most of their attention to Brown, who dished out a career-high eight assists.
The flashy Kabongo didn’t disappoint in his debut, either. The Toronto native had just six points but notched seven assists — tying the most by a freshman in an opener since D.J. Augustin in 2006.
“I was so excited I couldn’t sleep,” Kabongo said. “I probably didn’t go to bed until 3 a.m. On behalf of the six freshman, I’ll say that we’re very excited to get that first win out of the way.”
As for that lack of size, Brown expects the team to find a way to compensate.
“Last year, we were bigger and stronger. When teams shot the ball, Tristan [Thompson] and Gary [Johnson] were on every rebound, so guards never had to help. This year, we have to use our speed and do things as a unit.”
Printed on Monday, November 14, 2011 as: Texas victorious in season opener