Shaka Smart’s new mantra: Home sweet home.
His Texas basketball team spent November gallivanting all over the globe, flying to China, coming back home for one game and then playing three more in the Bahamas.
All they got was a couple of passport stamps, a sunburn and a 2-3 record to show for it.
Related coverage: Texas vs. Texas-Arlington, 7 p.m. Tuesday
Welcome home, Longhorns. On Tuesday, the first day of the new month, Texas must host one of the most dangerous teams of the young season — a surly UT-Arlington squad that’s already knocked off Ohio State and Memphis.
Texas holds a 10-0 all-time series record over its system sibling. Yet, this isn’t anything close to the mediocre squads that drifted down Interstate 35 for paycheck games before.
“Both those games, they just went in there and beat those teams,” Smart said of UTA’s two marquee road wins. “It wasn’t like they hit some fluke shot.”
UT’s Eric Davis hit plenty of shots in the Bahamas. The freshman had 19 points against Texas A&M, 15 against Washington and 12 against Michigan. On Monday, the Big 12 named him the league’s newcomer of the week.
“He had a little bit of a fog over his head,” Smart said. “You saw that fog lifted a little bit in the Bahamas.”
Could the clouds be lifting for other Longhorns, too? Texas never could adapt to the whistle-happy officials in last Wednesday’s 84-73 loss to Texas A&M. But UT got to the line 42 times the next night against Washington and committed only 15 fouls against Michigan.
Cam Ridley was 14 for 19 shooting from the floor on the three-game road trip. Javan Felix was 8 for 15 from 3-point range. Freshman Tevin Mack was 3 for 15 shooting from 3-point range. But he was also 14 for 18 from the free-throw line.
There’s still not enough data to determine what kind of team Texas will be later this season. Smart continues to focus on building up the players’ confidence. The hope is these Horns look, play and sound mentally tougher when Big 12 games starts in January.
December, which features six home games, will be a fascinating month.
“From the standpoint of experience, these guys have been through a lot, and they’ve had some success,” Smart said. “We don’t have a lot of naturally highly, highly confident guys. so I think a big part of our job as coaches is to lift them up and help them feel like, ‘Hey, you can be really successful out there and we can, too.’”
Study break: UT students had an impressive turnout for the home opener against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. School officials hope they’ll come back Tuesday for discounts at the concession stands. All UT students with a valid identification card will receive half-off food and beverage, except alcohol.