AUSTIN — After a brief reprieve from the toughest conference in the country, Texas heads right back into the sandstorm when they face the No. 10 Texas Tech Red Raiders in Lubbock on Wednesday. Chris Beard’s bunch is undefeated at United Supermarkets Arena this season, but they face a Longhorn squad that topped them in Austin only two weeks ago.
AUSTIN -- The Vandegrift Vipers are in just their second season as an UIL 6A athletic program after being in 5A for the rest of their existence. This places them in a district with some of the best teams in Central Texas, including Westlake and Lake Travis. There’s tough basketball competition in this district, but the Vipers have one of the best sophomores in the nation to help them in their battles in forward Greg Brown III.
With 11:32 left to play in the second half of Saturday’s game between the Longhorns and the West Virginia Mountaineers, junior forward Dylan Osetkowski rattled home a step-through lay-up to cut the Mountaineer lead to just eight. After that bucket, the Longhorns wouldn’t score for almost five minutes.
Chris Beard’s eighth-ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders presented Texas with several challenges similar to those they had already faced this conference season. Could they survive without sophomore guard Andrew Jones? Could they hold serve with another top-rated Big 12 team? Could they hold a double-digit lead during conference play? Tonight, Shaka Smart’s Longhorns answered each with an emphatic yes.
This game was massive in many respects. First, the obvious, an emotional time in which a member of the team gets a heartbreaking diagnosis. As I’ve mentioned, Texas takes pride in how close-knit of a program it runs. If it wasn’t close already, it’s now tied tighter than a clove hitch. Texas rode the wave of emotion early, but as the game went on, it rode the wave of “hey, we can beat these guys.” Extra motivation aside, this team hung with and topped one of the teams near the top of the Big 12 after a 50 minute slugfest.
In Texas’ Tuesday game against Michigan, the Wolverines made more shots, made more three pointers, made a higher percentage of their free throws, brought down more offensive and defensive rebounds, had more bench points, points in the paint, fast break points, assisted more, lead for 35:36 and scored more than the Longhorns in a 59-52 victory.