No. 23 Texas brings balanced attack vs. E. Washington
Competition for playing time and a meaningful spot in the Texas rotation will be up for grabs on Thursday when the 23rd-ranked Longhorns host Eastern Washington at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Tex.
The contest is the second game of the regional round of the Legends Classic.
Texas' first two games have featured a balanced attack as six Longhorns are averaging double figures in scoring. During Monday's win over Louisiana-Monroe, seven Texas players recorded at least seven points. No Longhorns player saw more than 24 minutes of action against Louisiana-Monroe and nine Texas players were on the court for at least 17 minutes in the easy 80-59 victory.
“On this team we do have some interchangeable parts,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said after the win Monday night. “We have some length and athleticism. There are a variety of guys who are playing better on the break. We're running the floor and pushing the ball. Our guys made pretty good decisions tonight.”
After missing the season opener because of a suspension for a violation of team rules in the offseason, Texas sophomore guard/forward Tevin Mack and sophomore guard Kerwin Roach Jr. had solid performances against Louisiana-Monroe.
Mack posted a team-high 14 points (including 4 for 6 on his 3-point shots) in 23 minutes, while Roach added 11 points, four rebounds and two assists without a turnover in 22 minutes for Texas (2-0).
Freshman guard Andrew Jones reached double figures in scoring (12 points) for the second straight game to start his collegiate career.
“Coach Smart is still teaching me as I go and I'm emerging as a point guard,” Jones said. “And this game is only a step for me and learning how to run this team at a young age and still be able to lead and get my players in the position to score.”
Senior guard Kendal Yancy leads the team in scoring at 15.5 points per game and steals (five) and is tied for the team lead in minutes (30.0 mpg) through the first two contests. He has converted 52.6 percent (10 of 19) from the floor and 81.8 percent (9 of 11) from the free throw line.
Texas freshman forward Jarrett Allen was named to the John R. Wooden Award watch list on Tuesday. He previously was named to the watch lists for the Naismith Trophy Men's 50 preseason and for the 2017 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award.
Through his first two collegiate contests, Allen is tied for the team lead in rebounding (7.5 rpg) and ranks third on the team in scoring (12.0 ppg) while hitting 11 of 16 field goals (.688) and adding four blocked shots in 30 minutes per game.
Eastern Washington (1-1) heads to Austin off an 86-72 loss at Northwestern on Monday. The Eagles were within six points on four occasions in the defeat, two of those instances midway through the second half, but then went four minutes without a field goal.
Junior forward Bogdan Bliznyuk scored 25 points for Eastern Washington in the loss while senior forward Jacob Wiley finished with 19 before fouling out, scoring 14 of his points in the second half.
“There are a lot of pieces there for us, but Northwestern's balance was too much to overcome,” Eastern Washington coach Jim Hayford said after Monday's loss. “We needed to either find a way to hold them to 10 less points, or we needed to find some more scoring to keep up with them. Right now we are trying to find strengths, roles and cohesion, and we are playing very quality opponents to help figure that out.”
The Eagles opened the season with a 70-47 victory over Linfield on Nov. 11. They were picked to finish fifth in the Big Sky Conference's preseason poll.
“We're fighting up a weight class or two this week but it's only going to make us better,” Hayford said. “We need to shake off the travel and figure out how we're going to play Texas. Every coach at this time of year is looking at what his team has, how it's playing and what they need to do to improve.”
Thursday's contest marks the first meeting between the Longhorns and Eastern Washington.
Eight teams from across the nation are competing in the 10th annual Legends Classic. Texas, Notre Dame, Northwestern and Colorado are serving as regional hosts and those four squads automatically advance to the event's championship rounds on Nov. 21-22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.