By all appearances, Appalachian State should’ve been blown out Tuesday at the Erwin Center.
The 1990 Runnin’ Horns — “BMW,” coach Tom Penders, the whole crew — were honored at halftime. All the old-school Texas power players were in attendance, too. Seeing DeLoss Dodds, Mack Brown, Chris Plonsky and Bill Powers together again was… fascinating.
The Mountaineers missed 15 of their first 20 shots, and yet they were tied with the Longhorns with 9 minutes left? The North Carolina hangover must be some powerful stuff.
“You’ve got to be better than human nature if you want to be a great team,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said.
Well, it was tied, until center Cam Ridley took over with one of the best individual stretches of any player all season. Dunk. Dunk. Tip-in. Layup. And an incredible right-handed flush from Isaiah Taylor that swept Appalachian State right out of the building.
For a game that looked really close until the Longhorns got their act together, it really wasn’t close at all. Texas captured an expected 67-55 victory, its fifth straight, and a sizable midweek crowd went home happy.
“I didn’t expect it, actually,” said Ridley, not really known for individual razzmatazz. “But I’m glad he trusts me throw that up there.”
Ridley finished one block shy of the second triple-double in Texas basketball history. He piled up 19 points, 11 rebounds and finished with a school-record nine blocks, giving him 33 for the season. Reggie Freeman still stands alone for his 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists against TCU in 1996.
What’s most impressive is that Ridley played 31 minutes and took over down the stretch. That’s something he never did in previous years. The big man was either too heavy or simply couldn’t go that hard that long. Ridley hates questions about his weight, as we all do. But this season, he talks openly about feeling good on the floor.
“If you don’t like Cam, you’ve got a real problem,” Smart said. “He’s not the Energizer bunny, but he’s a big-man version of that in terms of he just keeps going. He’s 295 pounds. That’s impressive to me.”
Ridley and Prince Ibeh (four blocks) helped the Longhorns swat away 15 shots overall, breaking the school record of 14 set twice last season.
With those two patrolling the middle, Appalachian State coach Jim Fox said his guards were hesitant. The Mountaineers (2-7) took 18 shots overall, 12 from 3-point range. Frank Eaves had a game-high 20 points by hitting 6 of 8 shots from 3-point range. If not for him, the Mountaineers would’ve been blown out, even though the Horns were sleepwalking three-fourths of the night.
“Our older perimeter guys should give them a big hug,” Smart said. “Those guys saved the day.”
As if Ridley’s eye-popping dunk wasn’t enough, Felix came right back with a soul-crushing 3-pointer, giving Texas a 66-51 lead with 1:20 remaining.
Felix, the reigning Big 12 co-player of the week, finished with 14 points on 6 of 9 shooting and became the 35th player in school history to score 1,000 career points.
But, like Smart, Felix wasn’t exactly crowing about the outcome. Texas (7-3) can play much better, Felix believes. The Horns shot 39.1 percent and still went 8 for 18 at the free throw line.
“I think we didn’t come out and play to our full potential in the first half,” Felix said. “That’s just something that is unacceptable. The things that are just off sheer effort, we didn’t do for the most part in the first half and it showed. We know we didn’t do our best tonight.”