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Texas rolls out the burnt orange carpet for Mike Wacker, then steamrolls Texas Lutheran

Tre Mitchell scores game-high 16 in exhibition win: ‘Anybody you pick on the roster is capable of leading this team’

It’s one thing to talk about all the talent Texas coach Chris Beard has assembled in Austin. It’s quite another to see it live.

In Monday’s exhibition against Texas Lutheran, Beard started five players who were all double-digit scorers last season. 

Veterans Andrew Jones (14.6 points per game) and Courtney Ramey (12.2) along with transfers Marcus Carr (19.4), Christian Bishop (11.0) and Timmy Allen (17.2) would make any opponent sweat. That’s more than enough firepower to overrun a Division III opponent.

Fifth-ranked Texas looked like a machine in a 96-33 blowout at the Erwin Center. 

“A few weeks ago, I was nervous,” said Texas Lutheran guard Xavier Phillips, a Dripping Springs product. “But like my dad just told me, they tie their shoes the same way as you do, they’re just in a higher division.”

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These Horns have more than just five scorers. Beard’s first sub off the bench was veteran UT guard Jase Febres, who shot a career-high 39.2% from 3-point range last season. The next sub was transfer Tre Mitchell, who averaged 18.8 points last season at UMass.

Texas forward Tre Mitchell yells orders to his team during an exhibition game against Texas Lutheran at the Frank Erwin Center on Monday. Texas defeated Texas Lutheran 96-33.

Need someone to pick up the defensive intensity? Here comes Brock Cunningham, the Swiss Army knife. Need a change of pace at guard? In rolls Devin Askew, who spent last season running point at Kentucky. Even freshman Jaylon Tyson showed he’s capable of defense and dunks. 

“Anybody you pick on the roster is capable of leading this team,” Mitchell said. “That’s something that’s going to make us special as well, because everybody is willing to lead and everybody is willing to follow.”

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It’s hard to put too much stock into the statistics generated against an overmatched Division III foe. Dylan Disu, a double-digit scorer last season at Vanderbilt, didn’t even play because of his knee injury. But the numbers were overwhelming. 

Mitchell had a team-high 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Allen had 15 points on 6-of-7 from the floor. Tyson (13 points, 6-of-9), Ramey (12 points, 6-of-10) and Askew (nine points, four assists) all had strong outings. 

“In my mind, if you coach basketball at the University of Texas, you’ve got to have depth, you’ve got to have a great roster, you’ve got to have some NBA guys,” Beard said. “You need some tough guys, some unselfish guys. Said it before, we're proud of the first team we’re putting on the floor.”

Texas shot 57.1% from the floor and forced 25 turnovers. The way Beard reads the stat sheet, the Horns had 21 assists and four turnovers and won the rebounding battle 38-28.

Texas forward Timmy Allen points and smiles to celebrate a score during an exhibition game against Texas Lutheran at the Frank Erwin Center on Monday. Texas defeated Texas Lutheran 96-33.

Then, Beard talked about the free throws. Once again, the coach left no doubt that he’s already thinking about March. He’s built this roster to win big, not just get to the NCAA Tournament or win one or two games. Beard’s dead set on winning the whole thing.

“I didn’t like tonight’s free throws,” Beard said. “Ten-for-ten, I like the percentage. I was not a math major, but I think that’s pretty good. But I don’t like 10 attempts. 

“We have to get to the free throw line,” he added for emphasis. “You can’t win six games in three weekends unless you make free throws. You can’t make free throws unless you get there.”

This game, such as it was, had Beard’s stamp all over it. He counts the number of defensive “kills” the Horns make. A “kill” is three defensive stops. If Texas has seven kills, which is essentially 21 stops throughout the game, “you’re playing pretty good defense,” Beard said.

Texas forced three consecutive turnovers in the first three minutes. Then came another “kill,” as Mitchell scored on the other end and Febres hit a wide-open 3-pointer. Mitchell scored twice on back-to-back possessions, and the Horns were off and running with a 22-8 lead.

Texas guard Andrew Jones guards a Texas Lutheran player during an exhibition game at the Frank Erwin Center on Monday. Texas defeated Texas Lutheran 96-33.

Beard wants the Horns to be “shot ready” at all times. Have your hands and feet in position to catch and shoot in a blink. “Every guy on our roster is going to be a 3-point shooter,” Beard said. “We feel confident that we’ll have five guys on the floor at all times that will be a threat from the 3-point line.”

Askew buried a 3-pointer from the left wing. Febres hit another 3-pointer from the right side. Then after a turnover in the open floor, Febres was throwing an alley-oop to Allen for the dunk. At that point, it was 43-15.

The Horns opened the second half hitting eight of nine shots and had a 40-point lead with about 14 minutes left. 

There was nothing Texas ex Mike Wacker could do. As coach of the Bulldogs, Wacker wore his T-ring but knew his players were outmanned.

Texas head coach Chris Beard yells orders at his team during an exhibition game against Texas Lutheran at the Frank Erwin Center on Monday. Texas defeated Texas Lutheran 96-33.

“Even in a war, you can surrender,” said Wacker, the 1985 All-Southwest Conference forward. “We couldn’t surrender and we didn’t surrender. I’m really proud of our guys for that.”

Beard built the entire night around honoring Wacker and his playing days at UT. The current Longhorns wore warm-up shirts with Wacker’s name and jersey No. 44 on the back. Ask him about Beard, and Wacker is a faucet you can’t turn off. 

“There’s something about a Texan being the coach at Texas,” Wacker said of Beard, who grew up in Irving.

And there’s something different about this new Texas coach, too. When the game was over, Beard summoned all UT students in the crowd of 2,394 down to the floor for a group photo.

Admission was free Monday. The season opener on Nov. 9 against Houston Baptist is the first chance to see whether Beard’s visits to West Campus, the Greek houses and glad-handing on campus pays dividends.

The team he’s assembled is worth coming to see, if Monday was any indication.

“Certainly a great start with the student section tonight,” Beard said. “We look forward to building this thing. Tonight was a start, and we’re going to get it done here.”

Contact Brian Davis by phone or text at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com or @BDavisAAS.