With plenty of students cheering, Texas clobbers HBU: ‘Look forward to the party at the Tower’
Six Horns finish in double figures as they shoot 64% overall in opening blowout
Ron Cottrell’s been coaching basketball for more than 30 years. The Houston Baptist coach said the days of building a traditional program are over.
“You can kiss that goodbye. It’s build a team every year,” Cottrell said. “That’s just the environment we live in.”
In Cottrell’s estimation, few have done it this season better than Texas coach Chris Beard. The fifth-ranked Longhorns were “everything they’re advertised to be” in a 92-48 season-opening win at the Erwin Center.
Plenty of Texas fans went home impressed. The school distributed 14,683 tickets for the men’s and women’s doubleheader. It was the fourth-largest home opening crowd since UT moved into the Erwin Center in 1977.
“It was fun to play again. It was fun to play in front of the crowd,” veteran guard Courtney Ramey said. “Coach is doing a good job of just finding a fan base for us. And I think tonight was a good step in the right direction of just showing how we want to play this year.”
Beard had all the students come down onto the floor for a group photo. That party he promised at the UT Tower if 1,041 students showed up? Oh, it’s happening.
“With all seriousness, thank you, Texas fans, Longhorn Nation season ticket holders,” Beard said. “It was a great crowd. So I represent everybody, including our players, when we say thank you.”
“Look forward to the party at the Tower.”
It was quite a party on a school night at the Erwin Center. The Longhorns (1-0) had six players finish in double figures with Ramey (14 points) leading the way. More impressive was the team’s 64% shooting overall (32-of-50) and 56.5% from 3-point range (13-of-23).
Over the last six seasons, Texas shot better than 60% only once. UT shot 64.7% in a 66-point rout over UTSA in Dec. 8, 2015.
With that kind of offensive firepower, anything is possible for this Texas squad.
“Shot selection is going to be a big part of our journey, because we've got a lot of talent,” Beard said. “Lot of these guys can take challenging shots and it's a good shot for them, so we're just trying to find that balance.”
This may be a collection of talented players, but there’s a process to becoming a team. It just takes time.
In the opening frame, UT veterans Jase Febres found Ramey cutting to the basket for a layup. These two have played together for three seasons at UT. They just know each other so well by now.
Compare that to what happened minutes later. Transfer Christian Bishop had a smooth pass to transfer Marcus Carr in the lane for a layup. But on the next possession, Carr mistimed a lob pass to Bishop and the play fizzled out. Chances are, if they did that again in a few weeks, it’s a slam dunk.
When the second half began, UT graybeard Andrew Jones looked like a veteran with a 3-pointer, then a steal in the open floor and easy layup. Transfer Timmy Allen lost the ball on the next possession while trying to post up. Give him some time, and the All-Pac-12 big man will be making easy turnaround jumpers.
“Even if it was the same team we had last year, it's a new journey, so of course you’ve got to work the kinks out,” Ramey said. “And I think over time we can grow into something special. But today was a good step in the right direction.”
Still, the fact that Ramey, Jones, Carr, Bishop, Tre Mitchell and Jaylon Tyson all get enough shots to finish in double figures speaks to ball movement and teamwork. Texas had 20 assists on 32 made shots. Even Tristen Licon, the transfer from Division III Sul Ross State, was in there bombing two 3-pointers at the end for a half-dozen points.
For a program that’s been offensively challenged at times in recent years, this is a noticeable change.
“I want Jones to be aggressive. I want Marcus to be aggressive,” Beard said. “So we’re just going to be a, you know, we’re a work in progress. I can’t say that enough. I think our offense could be something special come February, March.”
The Horns forced 17 turnovers, which included 10 steals, and blocked five shots. The Huskies (0-1) had three shot clock violations and went 6:22 between field goals in the first half. They were just overwhelmed and shot 32.7% overall.
Houston Baptist wasn’t afraid. Za-Ontay Boothman had a team-high 12 points as HBU players went straight at the rim and went hard after every loose ball. Texas finished the night with a marginal 32-31 edge on the glass.
“An eye-opening problem,” Beard said. “I would fire the rebounding coach, but I think that’s me, so I’ve got to figure that out quickly. That’s on me.”
HBU’s Deshon Proctor probably got a little too excited, though. After a missed free throw, Procter grabbed the loose ball and dunked it home. While running down the floor, he gave a double-fisted Horns Down and immediately drew a technical foul for taunting. Texas was leading by 30 at the time.
There will be plenty of upcoming nights in non-conference play when Texas’ talent simply overpowers its foe. Saturday is not one of them.
Texas will travel to face No. 1 Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash., this weekend. Even the Zags have to retool and find their rhythm. Gonzaga beat Dixie State 97-63 in its season opener on Tuesday.
“We know our ultimate goal is to win games like we have Saturday,” Ramey said. “That’s the biggest challenge that we have right now is getting ready for that game.”