Sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor led the Longhorns in points per game and assists per game last season and will be leading the charge for Shaka Smart’s new offensive and defensive schemes.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Shaka Smart’s to-do list got a little shorter Saturday night.

After weeks of speculation surrounding sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor’s future plans, Taylor announced late Saturday that he will return for his junior year and remain a key part of the Longhorns’ roster for Smart’s inaugural season.

“Glad to be a Longhorn! Feels good. Looking to get this new era started. Love the guys on the team. Spending another year with my teammates and coaching staff is a great feeling,” Taylor posted on his Instagram account Saturday.

Taylor continued working out with teammates and participating in team activities after the Longhorns’ season ended last month, even as rumors swirled that he would declare for the NBA Draft like his former teammate, Myles Turner. 

Taylor said his new relationship with Smart helped keep him in Austin. The 6-foot-1 guard had multiple conversations about his future with Smart after Texas’ season ended in March against Butler. Eventually, he decided staying another season was his best choice.

“When it all came down to it, I didn’t want to leave my teammates and not be a part of something I feel can be special,” Taylor said in a statement. 

Underclassmen had until the 10:59 p.m. Sunday to make their final choice on declaring for the draft. Taylor said he received a late first- or early second-round draft grade from NBA evaluators. He is also listed as the No. 27-ranked sophomore on DraftExpress. 

Taylor began the 2014-15 season with high hopes, but a wrist injury at the beginning of the year derailed his production. Despite the adversity, Taylor finished his sophomore campaign with a team-leading 13.1 points per game and 4.6 assists per game.

“Really excited about the opportunity to coach Isaiah next season,” Smart said in a statement. “We’ve had the chance to work out on the court several times over the past few weeks, and his commitment to improvement has been terrific. We are looking forward to Isaiah being a tremendous leader for our team!”

Senior forward Jonathan Holmes shoots over three Baylor defenders in Texas’ overtime victory over Baylor. The Longhorns overcame a 10-point deficit in the second half. Sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor made the winning shot on last-second floater.
Photo Credit: Michael Baez | Daily Texan Staff

With Texas’ NCAA tournament hopes on the line, sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor showed up just in time to save the day.

As No. 14 Baylor built its lead and was staving off the Longhorns, Taylor was watching from the bench. Taylor played 40 minutes against Iowa State, 34 at Kansas, but a season-low 15 Monday night.

“It was my choice,” head coach Rick Barnes said. “He wasn’t doing what we needed him to do defensively is why he didn’t play.”

Instead, junior guards Javan Felix and Demarcus Holland led Texas back from a 10-point deficit late in the second half. But when sophomore guard Kendal Yancy came up limping in the first minute of overtime, Barnes was forced to go back to his star point guard — and he didn’t disappoint.

A baseline runner got him going, and a midcourt scuffle got him heated. His signature floater sealed a much-needed 61–59 overtime victory for Texas over Baylor.

“Give me the ball, and I’ll get the bucket,” Taylor said on the game-winner.

He scored 7 in the game, and 4 points in a hard-fought overtime in which he and his team struggled for a win.

Going after a loose ball with Baylor’s Taurean Prince midway through overtime, Taylor took an incidental elbow that busted open his lip and cleared the benches for a scuffle at the scorer’s table. Yancy, junior forward Connor Lammert and junior centers Prince Ibeh and Cameron Ridley were ejected for leaving the Texas bench. Three Baylor players faced the same penalty. No punches were thrown, meaning that no players will be facing any further discipline.

The Bears (22–8, 10–7 Big 12) led throughout and held a 10-point lead with less than seven minutes remaining as Baylor dominated Texas (18–12,7–10 Big 12). The Bears held a 46–30 rebounding advantage total and totaled 21 offensive boards.

“They out-rebounded us like crazy,” Holland said.

But Texas went on a 16–6 run to tie the game capped by senior forward Jonathan Holmes’ 3-pointer with just over a minute left.

Baylor had its chance late, though. Guard Kenny Cherry got a mismatch on Ibeh, got a step and went straight to the rim. Ibeh, charging hard, got back just in time to swat the layup attempt and save Texas’ season in regulation.

“You got Prince out there playing great defense,” Holland said. “He has great timing on blocking shots.”

Texas, with Taylor on the bench, then held the ball for the last shot of regulation. With seconds left, Holmes fired up a long, contested 3-pointer that never really had a chance. 

“I should have put [Taylor] back at the end of regulation,” Barnes said. “That was my fault. Glad it worked out.”

In overtime, Texas controlled the pace of the game, owning the lead for the majority of it. However, a 3-pointer by Baylor’s Royce O’Neale tied things up with just 1:19 remaining, and the score set the stage for Taylor’s dramatics.

“It gives us another breath,” Barnes said.

Texas will finish its season Saturday against Kansas State in another must-win.

“We fought for it; we earned it,” Felix said. “Now we got to focus on preparing for Saturday night’s game.”

Sophomore guard Kendal Yancy more than doubled his previous career high with a 29-point outburst against Iowa State on Saturday. In his last three games, he’s scored 51 points.
Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

When sophomore guard Martez Walker left the University following multiple arrests in the fall, it was unclear how his minutes would be distributed among the backcourt.

Walker scored double figures in four of the last five contests of his freshman campaign, overcoming early-season struggles and demonstrating his potential value to the 2014–2015 squad. 

With his departure, there was a gaping hole in the Texas backcourt alongside sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor. Junior guard Demarcus Holland likely would have started but, while he is an elite defensive player, he does not have a scorer’s mentality. Junior guard Javan Felix, on the other hand, can score in bunches but struggles on the defensive end.

By default, Texas’ best hope for a complete guard rested in the maturation and development of sophomore Kendal Yancy. But could the guard who averaged only 3.4 points per game as a freshman take the necessary leap in production?

Early in the season the prognosis looked negative. 

When the 2K Classic concluded, he was only averaging 4.25 points per game while making less than 38 percent of his shots from the field.

However, because of injuries to both Taylor and Felix, Yancy was inserted into Texas’ starting lineup when it returned to Austin to face Saint Francis. His response was 12 points and six rebounds, tying his then career-highs in both.

In the win, Yancy attempted 10 shots. He wouldn’t match  that number again until setting a new career-high in points with 14 in a 74–71 overtime loss to Stanford. The performance was one of the most efficient efforts of his career. He finished with an effective field goal percentage of 65 percent and a true shooting percentage of 67 percent. 

Effective shooting percentage adjusts for the fact that a 3-point field goal is worth one more point than a 2-point field goal, whereas true shooting percentage takes into account field goals, 3-point field goals and free throws.

Despite these efforts, the sophomore played less than eight minutes per game against Texas’ first eight conference opponents, scoring 1 point per contest.

Following concussions to
Felix in a loss at Baylor and to senior forward Jonathan Holmes in a loss to Oklahoma State, Yancy once again was thrust into the starting lineup and, this time, was determined to stay.

In wins over Kansas State, TCU and Texas Tech the sophomore did not produce very eye-popping numbers, but he appeared to be a positive presence on the floor. However, in losses to Oklahoma, Iowa State and West Virginia, Yancy asserted himself on the offensive end and did all he could to help out a team that struggled to hit baskets.

He scored a career-high 29 points against Iowa State— the most a Longhorn has scored in a game since Myck Kabongo dropped 31 points in Texas’ 22-point come-from-behind victory over Oklahoma in 2013. Perhaps even more impressively, Yancy sunk six threes in the loss — the same amount he hit during his entire freshman campaign. 

Yancy appears to be gaining confidence each and every game, and he is finally settling in as a threat when shooting the basketball. While his elevated play may not be quite enough to salvage the season, he could be setting himself up for a very productive junior season.

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

For the second straight game, Texas spoiled a brilliant performance from sophomore guard Kendal Yancy.  

Saturday afternoon, Yancy poured in a career-high 29 points against No. 14 Iowa State — but behind an onslaught of Iowa State 3-pointers, Texas still managed to fall short in a crucial home contest, 85–77.

Texas (17–10, 6–8 Big 12), behind by a comfortable margin nearly the entirety of the second half, made a late run as it started fouling the Cyclones (20–6, 10–4 Big 12), sending them to the line for 29 free throws. Unfortunately for Texas, the late effort wasn’t enough.

“The last three minutes got into a foul shooting contest and watching Isaiah Taylor shoot layups,” Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Luckily, we made enough of ours.”

The Cyclones’ ability to pick apart the Texas zone was a defining element of the teams’ first matchup in late January, so this time around, head coach Rick Barnes showed a man-to-man look. The man defense kept Iowa State out of the lane, but the Cyclones felt at home from deep, where they lead the conference in 3-point percentage. Iowa State, led by sophomore guard Matt Thomas’ four makes, shot 57 percent from long range.

“We were finding guys on the outside, and they were knocking down open shots,” Cyclones senior guard Bryce Dejean-Jones said.

Although Texas dropped yet another crucial home conference game, Yancy’s recent play has been inspiring. Yancy connected on 6-of-9 from deep, was nearly perfect from the line and snared five rebounds. He did all this while committing just two turnovers. But playing so well in a game that resulted in a loss meant Yancy wasn’t in a celebratory mood after the game.

“It’s pretty tough,” Yancy said. “There’s not time to feel sorry for ourselves, but I feel sorry for my teammates because we played hard. We just got to stop this losing streak.”

In three of the last four games, and as senior forward Jonathan Holmes has continued to struggle, Yancy has been in double-figures and has become the Longhorns’ go-to man on the wing.

Since coming back from a concussion that sidelined him for two straight games, Holmes has been a nonfactor for a Texas team that needs him for this crucial part of the season. In Texas’ three games against Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Iowa State, Holmes scored just 12 points total on 4-of-19 shooting.

“I got to get better and improve and get back in rhythm,” Holmes said. “Stuff just is not going in right now; just got to get back to the basics.”

The matchup against Iowa State was sophomore point guard Isaiah Taylor’s best game in conference play, according to Barnes. After playing the entire 40 minutes, Taylor ended with 23 points and seven assists. Most importantly, however, after turning the ball over four times in the first half, he had none the rest of the way.

“It’s hard to do what he did for 40 minutes,” Barnes said. “We need Javan [Felix] to help Isaiah, but he’s got to take care of the ball. We need Javan, Holmes and Cam [Ridley]. We need those guys. We really need those guys.”

Felix finished just 1-of-9 with two turnovers, while freshman forward Myles Turner and junior center Cam Ridley contributed for just 8 points combined from the post.

“I looked at Isaiah — dead tired,” Barnes said. “What it gets down to is that we need everybody. We need our post guys. It can’t just fall on [Isaiah]. Guys have to want the ball. Javan had a tough day, he really did.”

With just four conference games remaining, Barnes said he knows what Texas must do to get into the NCAA tournament.

“If you’re going to get there, you got to win,” Barnes said. “If we win, we’ll get there. If we don’t, we won’t.”

Photo Credit: Ellyn Snider | Daily Texan Staff

Boasting four Longhorns with double-digit figures, Texas collected its first conference road victory against Kansas, 74–63, on Saturday.

Texas played calmly in the first half, and its defense locked down early, holding the Jayhawks to 28 percent shooting. Freshman guard Ariel Atkins scored 15 points in the first half — more than half of Texas’ points in the period — but the Longhorns’ abysmal shooting and 10 turnovers gave them only a 1-point lead at halftime. 

Texas improved its perimeter shooting from 33 percent in the first 20 minutes to 67 percent in the second half. Although Kansas shaved the deficit to 3 points midway through the second half, Texas showed resilience and continued to stay aggressive. Drawing fouls often, the Longhorns attempted 30 free throws and shot 73 percent from the charity stripe.

“They never got frustrated when Kansas made a run,” head coach Karen Aston said. “They didn’t get frustrated when they made mistakes. They stayed very calm, and I thought we executed some things really well.”

The Longhorns (16–8, 5–8 Big 12) received contributions from all their healthy players, including bench players, in the full-team effort. Sophomore guard Brianna Taylor, who started the game, scored 13 of her 15 points in the second half, while junior center Imani McGee-Stafford came off the bench to record her third double-double with 12 points and 16 rebounds.

“Imani had some great minutes off the bench, and Taylor was really solid,” Aston said. “I thought Ariel did a great job of playing the game. Our guards made better decisions off the [Kansas] zone [defense].”

Texas dominated the Jayhawks on the boards, outrebounding them, 50–27, including 18 offensive rebounds, which led to 17 second-chance points. Texas is now 15–2 when it scores more than 60 points but is 1–6 when scoring less than 60 points.

“Obviously we’ve handled some adversity, and sometimes it’s been good and sometimes not,” Aston said. “I’m really pleased with the team.”

The Longhorns look to continue their momentum at home Wednesday against Kansas State.

Freshman guard Brooke McCarty had a career night in Texas’ loss to Oklahoma State. Despite losing four consecutive Big 12 games, the Longhorns are starting to see improvement
Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Since conference season began, winning away from home has been a consistent problem for the Longhorns.

In six away Big 12 games this season, Texas has recorded six straight losses — and now Texas will travel to Lawrence, Kansas, on Saturday to try and find its first away conference victory against the Jayhawks.

The Longhorns shot nearly 47 percent from the field against Oklahoma State Wednesday, and converted seven field goals behind the arc. Despite a season-high 21 points from freshman guard Brooke McCarty and junior center Imani-McGee Stafford’s double-double, the Longhorns lacked a sense of urgency and fell short on the road once again.

“It was probably as good as we shot in a while, but we shot ourselves in the foot with all the turnovers,” head coach Karen Aston said.

After tallying 23 turnovers against Oklahoma State, Texas will try and limit the amount of times it gives up the ball Saturday. Aston said she believes many of these turnovers stem from the team’s inexperience.

“It’s all young players making some mistakes that they’ll learn from,” Aston said. “But, again, that’s not an excuse at all, because other teams have young players too.”

Since the start of conference play, several key players have stepped up for the Longhorns.

Sophomore center Kelsey Lang ranks second in the conference, shooting an average 58 percent per game, while freshman guard Ariel Atkins leads the team with 82 percent shooting from the free throw line. She also averages nearly 10 points per game.

Despite an injury to sophomore forward Nekia Jones and the loss of senior forward Nneka Enemkpali, the Longhorns still possess depth on their bench, which has outscored opponents on an average of 25–14.

Sophomore guard Brianna Taylor and junior guard Celina Rodrigo have been good impacts averaging 15 minutes per game.

But while Texas is now in a three-way tie for last place in the conference, associate head coach Travis Mays said the team shows promise.

“I’m pleased with how much better this team is getting, how much harder they’re playing over a consistent period of time, and the wins will come,” Mays said.

Freshman guard Brooke McCarty drives past the Baylor defense. McCarty had her game-tying shot blocked at the end.
Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

With two minutes remaining in the game, and down by 5 points, Texas found itself in a position to end its losing skid. But Baylor proved to be too much once again — and the Longhorns fell to the Bears for the second time this season, 70-68.

Three pointers from freshman guard Brooke McCarty and junior guard Brady Sanders cut the deficit to 4 points in the waning minutes for Texas. After a missed Baylor field goal, sophomore guard Brianna Taylor’s mid-ranged jumper made it a 2-point game, and, with less than a minute remaining, Texas had the opportunity to tie, or even win. But Baylor forward Nina Davis blocked McCarty’s floater, and it was all over.

“It was a play that I felt like we were comfortable running,” head coach Karen Aston said. “I did think we could get to the next portion of the play, which would have been an odd ball with [sophomore center Kelsey Lang] coming out the setting one with [freshman guard Ariel Atkins], which would have gotten them in a two-man game.”

Sanders said she felt the failure of the last play. 

“I missed Ariel coming off the screen, and I should have tried to definitely get it to her,” Sanders said. “But I shouldn’t have had that mistake.”

Sunday’s match is the 10th straight time the Bears defeated the Longhorns, who now sit at 4–7 in the Big 12. Baylor found holes in Texas 2–3 defense in both halves finding quality looks for 3-point shots and penetrating the lane. Aston said despite the team’s shortcomings, she felt encouraged by their performance.

“Obviously there are no moral victories in this game at all, but I’m pleased with the way we played the game today,” Aston said.” I think if we can build on this then we can get back on track.”

Lang picked up a double-double, scoring 20 points with 11 boards. Sanders led the team with six assists, joining double-digits club with 14 points, and Taylor ended with 11 points and seven rebounds.

Junior guard Empress Davenport returned to action and played 22 minutes with 2 points, but ultimately fouled out. She had missed the last two games after injuring her right shoulder.

Despite the loss, Aston said she felt this was the first game where the team was ready to move forward from the adversity it has faced this season. Lang also said she thinks the team is starting to understand how to move forward without senior forward Nneka Enemkpali.

“No one person is going to fill what she was, because she was an amazing player,” Lang said. “But we are all starting to realize we need to take on a little part of her role. Hopefully that will help fill the void.”

Texas returns to action Wednesday in Stillwater, Oklahoma, against Oklahoma State.

Junior center Cam Ridley put up 10 points and grabbed four rebounds in Texas’ dominating win over the Horned Frogs on Monday night. Ridley has amassed 29 points and 10 rebounds over the past two games.
Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Maybe sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor was rusty; perhaps it was just a mid-season shooting slump. Either way, Taylor wasn’t quite himself in his first four games back after suffering a broken left wrist.

He bounced back from these offensive struggles in a major way Monday, leading the Longhorns in rebounds and assists to help guide No. 17 Texas to a 66-48 road victory against TCU.

Taylor scored 13 points, his most since returning from injury, while racking up seven rebounds and season-high six assists in the victory. He made six of his 12 shot attempts in the game after going just 10-of-40 from the field in his previous four games.

The Longhorns turned in one of their better offensive performances of the year, shooting 48 percent from the field while recording 16 assists as a team. Five different players scored at least 9 points in the game for Texas, while four players registered at least five rebounds.

Junior guard Javan Felix played a major role in the victory as well, leading Texas with 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting. It was the first time Felix shot above 50 percent from the field in a game since the Dec. 20 match against Long Beach State.

After dominating the paint on both sides of the ball against West Virginia on Saturday, the Texas frontcourt continued its hot play against the Horned Frogs. The Longhorn big men clogged the paint and forced TCU to take contested perimeter shots all game long, leading to the Horned Frogs’ 33.3 percent from the field.

Fresh off his season-best 19-point performance against West Virginia, junior center Cameron Ridley had another good game against TCU with 10 points, four rebounds and three blocks. Freshman forward Myles Turner tallied 11 points, six rebounds and two blocks in the game, and senior forward Jonathan Holmes added 9 points and six boards.

With the victory, the Longhorns improve to 14-4 on the season and 3-2 against Big 12 opponents. After winning their first game of conference play against Texas Tech, the Longhorns dropped back-to-back games against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in a span of five days, leading to concern from Texas fans about the state of the team.

They’ve since won each of their last two games in convincing fashion and are now on their first winning streak of conference play. The road only gets tougher, as their next two games are at home against No. 11 Kansas on Saturday and on the road against No. 9 Iowa State on Monday.

Texas put their offensive woes in the rearview mirror as they pummeled Lipscomb 106-61 Tuesday night at the Erwin Center.

“The fact is we moved the ball,” head coach Rick Barnes said. “That’s what we haven’t been doing. Ball movement is hard to defend if you can throw the hard, crisp passes.”

After a lousy offensive performance by Texas Saturday against Texas State, the Longhorns came back with, arguably, their best. With sophomore guard Demarcus Holland running the point, the offense was smooth, crisp, quick and shooting the open shots with confidence—something that hasn’t been done since Isaiah Taylor went down a few weeks ago.

They recorded season highs in points, three point field goal percentage (53%) and assists (24), all while committing a season-low nine turnovers.

“[Coach Barnes] emphasized us not playing scared,” Holland said. “He emphasized that we need to trust the offense, trust the coach and just go out there and try. We don’t like to be scared. This program is built on toughness.”

Standout freshman Myles Turner led the way with a career-high 26 points to go along with nine boards and six blocks.  In the first half alone, Turner was on pace for a triple-double with 19 points, seven rebounds and five blocks before he rested most of the second half as Texas opened up a large lead.

It wasn’t just Turner, though, as the entire Texas team was rolling. Everyone on the roster scored—including the five walk-ons.

 “Anytime the whole entire team scores, it’s a great night,” Turner said. “It creates great vibes.”

Holland had nine points and a career-high eight assists. Kendal Yancy, in his second straight start, also set a career-high in assists with seven. Senior forward Jonathan Holmes added 17 points while freshman Jordan Barnett had his best game of his young career tallying 11 points on 3-of-3 shooting from downtown (he was 1-of-12 coming into the game).

While the offense was clicking, the defense showed some vulnerability (not much, but some). The Longhorns, who pride themselves, on the defensive end, came into the game fifth in the nation, allowing just 50.9 points per contest. But Lipscomb was able to crack 60—the first team to hit that mark against Texas’ length this year.   

Just hours before tip-off, sophomore guard Damarcus Croaker announced he was transferring from the school and was given an unconditional release from his scholarship.

“Damarcus has been a great teammate,” Barnes said. “The role he plays is difficult. He wants to play. We didn’t want him to leave.”


Sophomore guard Damarcus Croaker will transfer and has been given an unconditional release from his scholarship, the school announced Tuesday afternoon.

The 6-foot-2 guard will probably transfer somewhere closer to his hometown--Orlando, Florida—where his 10-month-old son, Damarcus Jr, lives.

After averaging 9.5 minutes per game as a freshman, Croaker has seen a sharp decline in playing time this year. Despite being healthy, Croaker has played in just five of the team’s nine games and has the least time on the floor of any scholarship player.

Croaker was a heralded recruit coming out of high school in Florida, as had him the 105th best prospect in the nation and had him ranked the sixth best in Florida.

He has just eight points on the year, on 3-of-10 shooting.