Coming off of three tough games in the PK80 tournament, Shaka Smart and the Texas Longhorns had a chance to get back into the win column following the early season test. They welcomed a 1-7 Florida A&M team with a sloppy first half in which the Longhorns pressed the Rattlers into several live-ball turnovers, but contributed to the slop themselves by shooting a dismal 1-of-13 from behind the arc.
Junior forward Dylan Osetkowski tried to single-handedly put an end to the mistake-laden portion of game, as his 11 second half points from a 6-of-6 shooting performance allowed Texas to eventually coast to an 82-58 victory on a night celebrating the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Frank Erwin Center.
Sophomore Andrew Jones added 14 points, junior Kerwin Roach put up 11, and freshman Mohamed Bamba scored 10 and pulled down eight rebounds in a winning effort, but the most telling stat was Texas’ 56 points in the paint, just two shy of the Rattlers’ point total.
“I thought you could tell we were a little bit mentally fatigued,” Smart said. “And then the other thing is just human nature. You go from playing some of the teams that we played to playing a game like tonight, which I think in our guys’ minds, they probably felt like we were going to win coming in. We did not build up the opponent and say ‘hey this is the best team in the world that you’ve ever played.’ We wanted to see how our guys responded.”
After some success with the press in Portland, Smart began the game with his team in the full court press. Texas forced the Rattlers into several turnovers in the first segment of the game, including two 10-second violations. The poor shooting from outside allowed FAMU to remain in the game, as the opening portion ended in an 11-11 tie.
But from the under-16 on, Texas was able to go on runs in transition because of the press. The difficult shooting stretch from the outside was negated by Texas’ ability to get inside the paint with relative ease, and Texas’ size allowed them to score in the paint at will for most of the evening.
The emphasis on getting the ball inside continued as Texas struggled from deep, and even from the field late in the first half. Texas ended the opening 20 by making just one of its last 12 shots.
“We’re going to need to understand that to win the games that matter most we have to do all the little things,” Smart said after the game. “We have to do all the things we focus on in our cultural principles, our time where we sit down and talk about what we want to be about and what we practice every day.”
Texas continued to attack the paint after halftime, with Osetkowski coming out of the break hot. He scored 11 of his 19 in the second half, including 6 points within the first five minutes.
“He wasn’t upset with the fact that we didn’t have a big lead, he was more trying to talk to us about playing to our standard,” Osetkowski said about Smart’s halftime message. “If we’re going to compete against teams like Duke, Gonzaga, top teams, then we’ve got to have our standard at a lot higher level. I think Florida A&M played very well and got some shots down, but it’s about us and it’s not about the other team. Just for ourselves, we’ve got to be at a lot better level of everything coming into the next game and for all future games.”
The Longhorns attempted just six three point shots in the second half, making 50 percent of them. They out-rebounded the Rattlers by eight, and won the turnover battle by forcing 17 compared to their 11.
At the U16, Texas held a 14 point lead they would hover around the rest of the game, finally pulling away in the later stages allowing walk-ons Ryan McClurg and Joe Schwartz to get some time.
The emphasis on points in the paint led Texas to match FAMU’s second half scoring output of 32 with just its buckets from inside the lane. “We shot 75 percent in the second half, so we’ll take that any day of the week,” Smart said.
After the game, Smart was asked why his players seemed like they knew they should have won the game by more. “That’s ‘cause I jumped their ass in the locker room,” he answered.
“They listened,” Smart would add on. “I just didn’t think we showed the level of competitive maturity that we need to have. That’s typical of young guys.
The offense struggled to keep the Rattlers honest on the defensive end and mostly thrived because of Texas’ major size advantage. After the game, Jones laid out what the Longhorns need to do to improve on the offensive end.
“We continue to space the floor, learn to play to our stronger suits like in transition,” Jones said. “Our offensive flow, that will come and we’ve just got to continue to get better. That’s the only thing that we can say, just continue to get better. It’s still early, but that’s not an excuse. We’ve got to continue getting better and work to accomplish a lot.”