Basketball

Andrew Jones, Kai Jones lead Texas to 67-57 victory over UAB

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UAB just couldn’t keep up with the Joneses.

Sophomore Andrew Jones matched his career-high with 20 points buoyed by a 6-for-8 night from the three-point line, while freshman Kai Jones added 4 points, 3 rebounds, and 19 minutes of effort and strong defense in Texas 67-57 win over the UAB Blazers.

After a 29 percent effort from behind the three-point line Saturday against McNeese State, Texas shot a season-high 44 percent from three and matched their season-best with 11 makes from distance. Andrew Jones said following Saturday’s game against the Cowboys that the floodgates were about to open. After his and his teammates’ performance tonight, Jones proclaimed “the floodgates are officially open.”

“In any given day and any given night, we have such great shooters on this team that anybody can have their night.” Jones said postgame. “I was just happy it could be me tonight.”

Three other makes from distance came from sophomore Courtney Ramey. He had his best shooting night from three this season, knocking down 3-of-6 from deep.

Texas led 16-11 at the first half under-12 timeout. Andrew Jones then added his first three-pointer of the game to give Texas an eight-point lead. Then he hit his second. Ramey followed with a three-pointer of his own, and junior Matt Coleman knocked down his only bucket from distance on the evening.

The Longhorns’ shooting created a 12-point lead and forced UAB to take a timeout with 7:47 remaining in the half, but they weren’t finished lighting it up. Andrew Jones hit another three to cap his half of scoring at 11. Texas built its lead up to 17 with help from a 56 percent first-half shooting effort and took a 38-25 lead into the break.

Kai Jones was active in his eight first-half minutes. He hit a floater from the top of the lane, and recorded a steal and two blocks in his first half.

“He’s just being himself at this point on the court,” Ramey said about Kai Jones. “He’s still young, so he doesn’t really know what he’s doing but he’s playing hard. A lot of good stuff, and good things are going to happen.”

He even drew the attention of UAB head coach Robert Ehsan, who believed Kai Jones’ upside “is as high as anyone in college basketball.” 

UAB made their only major run of the game at the beginning of the second half. The Blazers began on an 8-0 run to cut Texas’ lead to five, but Kai Jones pulled down defensive rebounds on back-to-back possessions against a team ranked in the top 20 in the country in offensive rebounding.

The Blazers weren’t able to control the tempo of the game in the same manner for the remainder of the game.

After the under-16 timeout, Texas extended its lead from 6 to 10. Kai Jones’ defensive effort energized the team throughout the second half. He also added energy on the offensive end with an alley-oop from Ramey.

“I saw him open,” Ramey said. “I just put it where he could only catch it. He’s a great athlete, so he went and got it.”

Andrew Jones’ shooting remained consistent. He made all three of his attempts from behind the arc in the second 20 minutes. UAB cut the lead to 7 with over three minutes left, but Jones’ responded with his final three-point make in order to make sure Texas sealed its seventh victory of the season.

Texas head coach Shaka Smart was pleased with the performance his team put on the floor against a 4-3 Conference USA team, but the lull at the beginning of the second half did stick out in his mind. “We’re still searching for a 40-minute effort,” he said.

Kai Jones took it upon himself to better his personal effort. According to Smart, the Bahamian freshman recently approached him and asked what he needed to do in order to receive more playing time. Smart told him he needed to play harder in practice, and he said that’s something Kai Jones has improved at since Texas traveled to New York for the 2K Empire Classic.

“It’s amazing what trying hard can do especially when you have athletic dimensions the way he does,” Smart said. “We talk about having a standard of competitive effort. He played with that for 19 minutes tonight.”

Texas made 49 percent of its field goals, good for its second-best shooting performance of the season behind the 53 percent night it had on the road at Purdue.

That 49 percent was helped by the 13-for-25 night from Ramey and the Joneses.

“We just tell him to play as hard as he can and live with the mistakes,” Ramey said of the younger Jones.

The Longhorns travel to Dickies Arena in Fort Worth for a Sunday rivalry matchup against the Texas A&M Aggies.