No. 21 Longhorns expect stiff test from Warhawks
Texas learned a lot about itself on opening night of the 2016-17 campaign but will need to be a lot better, and quickly so, if the 21st-ranked Longhorns are going to live up to their preseason hype.
The Longhorns look to take another step forward when they host Louisiana-Monroe on Monday at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin in the first game of the regional round of the Legends Classic.
Texas (1-0) gave up a double-digit lead to upstart Incarnate Word in its season-opener on Friday but rallied in the final minute with an 8-0 run that sealed a 78-73 victory. In the process, the Longhorns improved to 91-20 all-time in season-opening games; Texas has won 14 of its last 15 season-opening contests.
Longhorns coach Shaka Smart said the close opening game was good for his youthful team.
“You really want games like this that you can learn from,” Smart said. “At the same time there's a humbling side of this which is good which is, 'man, there's so many things we've got to get better at and improve on.' The bottom line is that our guys came back after we relinquished a double-digit lead. We're down one, and after that I thought some guys made some real winning plays.”
Texas' freshmen quartet of forward Jarrett Allen, center James Banks and guards Andrew Jones and James Young logged a combined 114 minutes in the season-opener. Allen recorded his first career double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds, Banks blocked five shots and Jones and Young scored 10 points each. The Longhorns were led by senior guard Kendal Yancy's 19 points.
The Longhorns won Friday without three players who are expected to be big parts of their success this season, guard Kerwin Roach, guard/forward Tevin Mack and forward Mareik Isom. Roach, who is Texas' leading returning scorer, and Mack are expected back for Monday's game after sitting out the open on suspension for violating team rules in the offseason.
“Some of us got a little fatigued,” Yancy said of the Longhorns' effort against Incarnate Word. “We had guys playing over 30 minutes with some of the guys being out. We responded well, and when things weren't going our way, we focused on the next thing, so that's pretty exciting.
“We had four out of seven of the guys playing that are freshmen, responding the way that they did, so I'm pretty excited with those guys.”
Louisiana-Monroe (1-0) rolled to a 96-63 win in its opener Friday against Centenary.
Four players finished in double-figure scoring for Louisiana-Monroe, led by junior college transfer guard Jordon Harris' 23 points, 20 of which came in the first half. He was 9 of 11 from the floor including a 5 of 7 showing from 3-point range.
Forward Travis Munnings recorded his first double-double of the year with 16 points and 13 rebounds while guard Nick Coppola added 14 points with seven rebounds and seven assists and junior college transfer guard Marvin Jean-Pierre added 13 points on 6 of 10 shooting from the floor in his first game as a Warhawk.
Overall, Louisiana-Monroe shot 54.4 percent on its field goals and was 12 of 29 from beyond the arc. The Warhawks led 12-6 at the under-16-minute time out, forged a 13-0 run over the next three minutes to stretch their lead to 19 points never looked back.
The Warhawks entered the season off back-to-back 20-win campaigns and a second-place finish in the Sun Belt Conference last year. Louisiana-Monroe faces a tough task in Austin on Monday and they know it.
“We are still going to be a work in progress in each game but it was great to see positives today,” Louisiana-Monroe coach Keith Richards said. “Jordan Harris shot it really well in the first half. Coming out of junior college, he had a strong 3-point shooting reputation but hasn't shown that in practice. It's encouraging to see that today.
“Travis Munnings is a year further along and he controls the ball a lot better as an all-around player,” Richards added. “He is a better all-around player and is a key piece of this team for the upcoming season.”