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Golden: As football crashes and burns, Texas has become a basketball school

Texas guard Andrew Jones lays the ball up over San Jose State forward Trey Anderson during the Longhorns' 79-45 win Saturday at the Erwin Center. Jones scored 11 of his 13 points in the first half of the victory.
  • Horns ripped San Jose State 79-45
  • Win came on the same day football fell to 4-7 with a 31-23 loss at West Virginia.

Basketball season came early for Longhorn Nation.

Smiles abounded at Club Erwin on Saturday evening after Texas walked off the floor with a 79-45 win over overmatched San Jose State.

Chris Beard is still not entirely pleased with how his team has played in the second halves of the last two games — that sounds familiar — but his issues are far different from those of fellow first-year coach Steve Sarkisian, whose team’s second-half collapses led to bitter defeats and a lost season in his first year at the helm.

More:Allen, Mitchell lead Texas as Longhorns force 27 turnovers in win over San Jose State

The basketball team has First World problems. You know, little issues that aren’t as grand compared with others who are really struggling. Like thinking the world will end because Apple TV+ keeps buffering while Ted Lasso is talking or because the DoorDash girl didn’t ring the doorbell dropping off your sweet and sour chicken.

What we’re witnessing so far is a really good group of basketball players who are off to a nice start behind a veteran coaching staff that has plenty of flexibility in its rotations because of the vast experience on that bench.

At 3-1, the Horns are off to a nice start as Beard and his staff scheme up the best mix to make a deep postseason run next spring.

We can’t say the same for the football team.

Texas coach Chris Beard tries to get an explanation from a referee during the Longhorns' 79-45 win Saturday at the Erwin Center. No. 8 Texas is off to a 3-1 start to the season.

Usually we turn our undivided attention toward the hardwood sometime in early January after the gridiron gang finishes up its bowl game, but 2021 has provided a unique set of circumstances.

Football has one game left on the regular season schedule, but the Horns have been finished for a while. They limped back from West Virginia with a sixth straight loss Saturday, officially ending their chances to get to a bowl game. At 4-7, only a meaningless Black Friday home snoozer against the Kansas State Wildcats stands between the Horns and a long offseason.

When asked about the fans pinning their hopes on hoops to save the sports year, Beard threw his support behind Sark and Co.

More:Chris Beard going to toughen up No. 8 Texas whether the Longhorns like it or not

“Coach Sarkisian and his staff have been nothing but great to us,” he said “I know that guy is working 23½ hours a days, and those players are working hard. We’ve got a chance to be around those some in the dining hall, and effort is not the issue.”

Beard understands that he and Sarkisian work in a results-based business and that losing won’t be tolerated. The support he’s showing his colleague and his players is admirable during some dark days over at Bellmont.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys that are grinding,” he said. “I think there’s a big difference between laying it down and grinding. In my mind, I know a little bit about football, and those guys are out there playing hard. I think they need the fan base to step up for them. I think we need to finish the season strong this last game.”

To that end, I’m imploring Beard and women’s coach Vic Schaefer to deliver some basketball magic to this battered fan base. Lord knows they need it. They have suffered through one of the most dysfunctional three months in program history, and that’s saying something if you tuned in last season. 

More:Bohls: Sentimental Chris Beard savors his first Texas win in men's basketball opener

With another loss, this would be the first UT football team since 1956 to finish a season with eight losses.

Surely the only thing worse than watching the latest “L” on the flat screen was having to be there in person. On the drive over to Club Erwin, my thoughts turned from dysfunctional losing football to a promising men’s basketball team that’s learning how to employ Beard’s hard-nosed coaching style on the court.

The Spartans, now under the direction Tim Miles, a good coach who actually won some games at Nebraska, provided little resistance as Texas forced 18 first-half turnovers to quickly settle the issue.

“I grew up watching ‘Saturday Night Live,’” Miles said. “They'd introduce the cast, Gilda Radner and John Belushi, and they’d announce them as the Not Ready for Prime Time Players. That's who we were tonight."

The Horns were the ones with the big ratings as they got contributions from all over. Tre Mitchell had his way with San Jose State 7-foot center Ibrahima Diallo with 14 points and eight rebounds while guard Timmy Allen showed a nice all-court game with 17 points. Of great interest was the return to form of last season’s leading scorer, Andrew Jones, who scored 11 of his 13 points in the first half after struggling with his shot in the first three games.

Beard said he hasn’t spent 1 millisecond thinking about Jones’ struggles. His history has shown that he will figure it out sooner rather than later.

“We all know Andrew can fill it up,” Allen said. “It’s not a question of if but of when. It was good to see him get going today. He had been missing a couple of shots, but that’s nothing we’re stressing about.”

Texas guard Courtney Ramey passes the ball on a drive against San Jose State forward Shon Robinson, right, and Omari Moore during the first half.

It’s basketball season, and until they figure things out over at DKR, it’s a basketball school.

Hey, Chris and Vic, the ball is in your court now.

It's time for some good news on campus.