It took some time, but the Longhorns finally got a Texas-sized victory on Monday night, blowing out Houston Baptist 89-61 at the Erwin Center.
After opening up the season with three close wins over a few tricky mid-major opponents, Texas moved to 4-0 on the year with the big victory over the lowly Huskies.
“I’ll be honest, it was nice not to have to play from behind tonight,” sophomore forward Connor Lammert said. “We started out well and came out strong again in the second half to really put it away.”
The Longhorns did not look particularly impressive in the game but were able to take advantage of Houston Baptist’s sloppy ball handling and poor shot selection.
The Huskies turned the ball over 16 times and shot just 39 percent from the field. Texas scored 16 points off turnovers.
“Our zone still needs a lot of work,” head coach Rick Barnes said. “We have to do a better job of guarding the ball, but we’re long and we were very active out there tonight and that created some opportunities for us on the offensive end.”
The Longhorns’ 89 points were their most in a game this season. The scoring attack was led by the veteran trio of junior forward Jonathan Holmes, sophomore guard Javan Felix and Lammert, who had 15, 14 and 13 points, respectively. Lammert led all Texas players with 26 minutes, was just one rebound shy of a double-double and had three blocks on the night.
“The rebounds and blocks are something I’ve worked on a lot in practice,” Lammert said. “If it wasn’t for guys like Prince, Cam and Jonathan pushing me in practice, I wouldn’t have been able to get to where I’m at now.”
While the elder statesmen did the heavy lifting, Texas’ big lead throughout the game gave some of the younger players valuable minutes. Freshmen guards Kendal Yancy, who got his first start of the season, Damarcus Croaker and Martez Walker all saw significant playing time and combined for 26 points and 12 rebounds.
“We needed a game like this to get the freshmen out there,” Barnes said. “They gave us a lot of effort on the defensive end and did all the things that we’ve been asking them to do.”
All three of Texas’ walk-on players also got in the game late in the fourth quarter. Sophomore forward Danny Newsome even found his way into the box score, scoring three points and grabbing four rebounds.
Here are four takeaways from Monday's game:
Yancy gets the start
Freshman point guard Isaiah Taylor started from day one for the Longhorns, shifting Felix, Texas’ leading returning scorer, to shooting guard. Against Houston Baptist, a different freshman took Felix’s spot in the starting lineup: Yancy.
Yancy, a four-star recruit from Richardson, contributed seven points, four rebounds and an assist in 15 minutes of action. This included a definitive slam in transition after a steal. Felix, for his part, had 14 points in 17 minutes.
Yancy, a 6-foot-4-inch, 200-pound guard gives the Longhorns added size at the two-guard spot. Felix, at only 5-feet-11-inches, is undersized for a shooting guard, and could struggle later in the season to defend larger guards. Barnes made the early-season switch to allow Yancy a chance to develop against a non-conference foe, where the stakes aren’t quite as pressing.
Free throw woes
Texas may have won, but the team’s free throw shooting left much to be desired. Against an undersized Huskies squad — Houston Baptist only played one player taller than 6-foot-9-inches — the Longhorns reached the line 40 times, but only converted on 18 of those attempts.
Sophomore center Cameron Ridley had 11 of Texas’ chances but only made three of those. A 33 percent free throw shooter last season, Ridley has regressed early in 2013-14, converting only 35 percent from the line in 20 attempts.
For much of the game, the Longhorns actually shot a better percentage from the three-point line than they did from the charity stripe, until Yancy hit a pair of free throws with 30 seconds remaining. Texas finished the game shooting 42.3 percent from three and 44.1 percent from the field.
The Longhorns struggled playing a zone defense early in the season. Their 2-3 look was far from perfect against Houston Baptist, but Texas defenders were opportunistic and aggressive in the passing lanes, forcing the Huskies into 16 turnovers.
Texas’ length created a lot of opportunities, as the Longhorns consistently pressured the smaller Huskies guards. Texas committed only nine turnovers of its own and created 16 points off HBU mishandles. This is the fourth game this season the Longhorns forced 13 turnovers or more.
Holmes will have a little less of a smile Tuesday afternoon. Holmes took a hard spill while diving for a loose ball, losing chunks of two teeth in the process.
“He looks different,” sophomore forward Connor Lammert said. “But he looks alright. That kind of effort shows who he is.”
The game stopped while a pair of medical staff searched for the fragments of Holmes’ teeth on the floor. Still, Holmes who sat out the majority of the second half, managed to lead the Longhorns offensively, scoring a team-high 15 points while adding six boards.