Shaka Smart has a philosophy about players who have proved themselves adept at making 3-point baskets: Keep shooting, even on bad days or during difficult stretches.
In that regard, Smart calls himself “a player’s coach.”
That attitude certainly applies to Jase Febres, the Longhorns’ junior guard. Febres can be inconsistent, but he’s the most prolific marksman on the team.
Febres had one of his great days Saturday. He established season-bests with 23 points and seven 3-point baskets as Texas defeated Central Michigan 87-76 after trailing by nine in the first half.
Febres knows there are games when opponents shadow him so closely that he can’t get an open look. But he often had room against the Chippewas.
“When I am open, I have to take advantage, because I know that in other games they might be face-guarding,” said Febres, who missed only three times from behind the line.
The Longhorns went 14 of 25 from 3-point range and shot 51% overall, 58% in the second half.
Courtney Ramey added a career-best 20 points for Texas (9-1), and Matt Coleman scored 12. Each handed out six assists, and they combined for just two turnovers, both by Coleman. Junior Royce Hamm contributed eight points and a career-best 12 rebounds in 16 minutes as a reserve. His previous best was five.
Kevin McKay led Central Michigan with 21 points. David Dileo scored 15, and Dallas Morgan had 14.
The Chippewas (7-4) led 42-36 at halftime after inducing 12 Texas turnovers, primarily with frenetic half-court defense. They made six steals in the half.
Central Michigan went 6 minutes, 21 seconds in the second half without a field goal, settling for one free throw, but never trailed by more than a point during that span.
Then Morgan heated up with three quick 3-point baskets. But Febres matched those with three treys of his own, in a span of 1:37, giving Texas a six-point lead with 7:52 left.
Ramey later asserted himself, making a 3-pointer, a shot from inside the foul lane and a pair of free throws in less than two minutes for a 13-point lead with 3:28 remaining.
Back to Febres, his career-best is eight 3-pointers against Iowa State last season. He made four of them twice this season.
This was another one of those games for Febres, who had been shooting 3s with pedestrian 33.8% accuracy before Saturday.
“Guys continue to find me, continues to look for me, and it’s my job to knock down 3s and be a spark,” he said.
Sometimes Febres was open in transition because of the fast pace of the game.
“A lot of times in transition, we were pushing and running,” he said. “Our jail break mentality.”
Smart expects more of this.
“We could have got him even a couple more looks,” Smart said. “This is what Jase is capable of. This is very, very doable for him if we can create good looks for him, and our guys did a nice job of that.”
The Chippewas are not exactly slouches from behind the 3-point line. They averaged 25.6 attempts and 8.8 baskets a game before Saturday. Texas is one of the best teams in the country at preventing 3-pointers, allowing only 4.7 baskets a game. Central Michigan made nine against Texas, including three in the first three minutes.
One thing atypical of both teams was excessive turnovers.
The Chippewas committed 19 — nine more than they average.
Texas had a season-high 22, six more than in any other game this season, against a team that ranks fourth nationally in turnover margin. Hamm and Gerald Liddell combined for half of the 22.
“They do a nice job with aggressiveness,” Smart said. “But the vast majority were on us.”