AUSTIN — Texas scored a season high 96 points and had five players go for double figures as the Longhorns were able to put away the UAB Blazers, 96-60. Sophomore Tevin Mack led the Longhorns in scoring, going for 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting. Freshmen Jarrett Allen and Andrew Jones each had 16 points, with Allen pulling down 6 rebounds and Jones pulling down 5. Seniors Shaquille Cleare and Kendall Yancy had 10 and 14 points apiece to lead the Longhorns to an easy victory.
Texas was able to shake off a tough loss in Houston at the hands of Arkansas by shooting 36-of-67 from the field, 12-of-28 from three and a perfect 12-of-12 from the line.
Just as important, the Texas defense had a fantastic game, grabbing 11 steals, including five from sophomore Kerwin Roach, and forcing 15 Blazer turnovers.
On offense, the early part of the game belonged to Allen. Allen was 4-of-5 in the first half from the field, and was the focus of the Blazer defense early. Once the UAB defense started focusing on Allen, the rest of the Longhorn opened up for the four other double-digit scorers.
Texas had at least four instances where they forced UAB to take a tough shot at the end of the shot clock. While the first part of the first half was even, the Longhorns started to pull away, opening up a 13 point lead at the under-four timeout. By halftime, Texas led by 16, and never looked back.
The Horns continued their strong run that ended the first half in the second half, as 9,106 watched the Texas offense give its best performance all season.
Freshman Eric Davis Jr., bounced back with a decent performance, going 3-for-6 from the field for 9 points. Toward the end of the game, Texas reached a comfortable enough lead for walk-ons Ryan McClurg and Isaiah Hobbs to earn three minutes apiece.
Following the game, head coach Shaka Smart was proud of his team’s bounce back performance.
“We needed to play better is what we needed,” Smart said. “I think we did. Any time you can win by a big margin like that, you don’t have the level of anxiety and tension a lot of our guys have felt in certain other games earlier this year.”
He complimented the play of Roach, who Smart said had a great game even though he did not fill the stat sheet.
“I thought Snoop, this was really a good game for Snoop,” Smart said. “I know the stat sheet says six points but man, he really made a difference earlier in the game with the way he played on defense, the way he passed the ball, just the look on his face and the aggressiveness with which he played, I thought it was really good.”
After the best offensive performance of the season, Smart said the light came on tonight, but the key is in figuring out how to keep the light on through the rest of the season.
“I think it’s a glimpse of more than anything, what individual guys working together for a common cause can do when those individual guys have a clear mind,” Smart said. “I thought Snoop, you could just see it, he had a clarity about him. He attacked. He wasn’t worried. He was just playing. I think you could say that for a lot of our guys. It’s a look into how we could be if we could sustain that more often. Again, it’s not a given.”
Smart said the team will be back for practice on Christmas night in order to prepare for their Tuesday match up against Kent State.
The Texas Longhorns had five scorers in double figures as they destroyed UAB in the penultimate non-conference game before they dive into Big 12 play.
While, perhaps, for only one evening, the Longhorns showed how easy basketball can be when you’re having fun and pressuring your opponent with spacing, ball movement and a roster full of talented scorers.
Aided by 29(!!!) points off of UAB turnovers, Texas kept attacking the middle of the floor against a Blazer defense that seemed to be focused on helping at the rim but not ready to protect the perimeter as the Longhorns got off open perimeter shot after open perimeter shot.
And, to the Longhorns’ credit, they had multiple shooters play their best games as far as being shot ready and in their ability to build subtle movement into court spacing and extra time on their jumpers.
That meant multiple three point makes for all of Mack (3-7), Jones (4-7) and Davis (2-5).
All of that was made possible by the fact that Jarrett Allen had his cleanest game of the year, by far, as an offensive playmaker from the tip. Not only was Allen a crazy efficient 8-9 from the floor, but he also had zero turnovers.
UAB was comfortable matching up with Jarrett with Lee (in hindsight a terrible choice, apparently). That meant he simply had to size up Lee as the double teams didn’t come on him like they did when Texas’ other ball handlers got lane touches off the bounce. Then he used a variety of post moves to create offense.
It was awesome.
The bench got into the act (Davis and Yancy combined for 23 points on 13 shots). Shaq once again was efficient and made great decisions.
The points off of turnovers were unbelievable (more on that in a second).
It was awesome.
Now, the impetus will be on Shaka to figure out how to parlay that into better confidence and execution against the rest of the schedule.
It was the closest thing to “Havoc” Texas has played under Shaka.
The Longhorns’ game plan was obviously to throw consistent pressure off of makes against a Blazer team that has the same type of point guard troubles Texas does.
But, when UAB showed a weakness in their decision making against high traps, Texas smelled blood in the water and never allowed UAB to get comfortable and pull themselves into some kind of regular set system.
While it was painful to watch the Blazers never get their **** together, it was the exact type of domination and confidence Shaka has been preaching when his team can be the aggressors on both ends of the floor.
Systematically, what I loved was the adjustment of pressuring the catch at the top of the key off of ball pressure on the wings. This sped up the decision making of UAB’s struggling ball handlers.
Not exactly the kind of play that can work against a top level point guard, but effective against a squad that didn’t have the ability to affect change against the kind of athleticism and length that Texas can throw at you, especially with their starting five.
Defense has been an increasingly positive aspect of Texas’ play, and it was again tonight.
A Look at the Numbers:
UAB shot 41.5% (23-53) overall, 21.4% (3-14) from three, and 68.4% (13-19) from the line.
Texas shot 53.7% (36-67) overall, 41.4% (12-29) from three, and 100% (12-12) from the line.
Texas had more rebounds (34-28) and assists (21-10) and fewer turnovers (12-18).
Star of the Game: Jarrett Allen
Jones was awesome (even with three turnovers in the first five minutes). Yancy played his best game of the season. Shaq, Mack and Roach all were solid.
But Allen’s aggressiveness and talent from both wings made UAB’s best defender look absolutely silly.
Even then, what stood out the most for Jarrett was his continued success as both the mad man in Shaka’s diamond press and his ball defense in the half court.
Both of those roles (as well as his progressing offensive decision making) come with an essential need to simultaneously play with patience and explosiveness.
Jarrett did that tonight and had a fantastic impact on both ends (16 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 0 turnovers).
Boy did this team need this kind of a win.
Whether any sustainable execution comes from this game or not, it was fun to watch these guys play loose and comfortable for once.
Individually, Mack’s and Jones’ aggressive play was a huge difference maker, as was the willingness of Texas’ ball handlers to reward Allen and Cleare for early work on the interior or in running in transition.
Flash in the pan? Beginning of a turning tide?
Fun as hell to watch?
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