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‘Our game plan backfired’: Sam Houston denied Texas’ Marcus Carr, but he goes wild instead

After focusing on defense for five games, Carr has season-high 19 points and looks like the scoring machine of old

No, Marcus Carr hasn’t forgotten how to score. He hasn’t lost his touch or gone cold, either. Those Minnesota fans mocking his offseason move to Texas can relax. It’s going fine here, thank you.

OK, so maybe Carr wasn’t tearing it up the first five games like he did with the Golden Gophers. Texas coach Chris Beard is busy rewiring Carr’s brain and his game to think defense first.

But make no mistake, he can still wreck a box score.

Carr scored a season-high 19 points and hit four 3-pointers as No. 7 Texas took down Sam Houston 73-57 at Gregory Gym. It was the Longhorns' first game in the venerable campus landmark since 1977, the year they moved into the Erwin Center.

“It's nice to see the ball go in the net,” Carr said. “I might have to ask coach to play a couple more games in Gregory.”

Texas guard Marcus Carr dribbles the ball during the Longhorns' 73-57 win over Sam Houston on Monday nightin Gregory Gym. The Minnesota transfer scored a season-high 19 points, including four 3-pointers. No. 7 Texas improved to 5-1.

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Part of the Bearkats' strategy was to make Carr shoot 3-pointers because he had gone 3-for-13 beyond the arc the first five games.

“Our game plan tonight, you know, backfired,” Sam Houston coach Jason Hooten said. “I just wanted him to not get in the paint tonight, and I thought we did a great job on him but he jumped up and made a bunch of threes. So you got to give the kid credit. He played really good. I thought he was the difference in the game tonight.”

On a night when Courtney Ramey had 14 points and Timmy Allen rang up 12 with seven assists, Carr was the engine making Texas (5-1) go. He closed the first half with an especially dynamic stretch, hitting a 3-pointer from the left corner, a jumper in the lane and another trey from the right side to cap a 10-0 run. 

Carr’s flurry gave Texas a 38-28 lead in a game where Sam Houston showed no fear going to the rack. The Bearkats (2-5) outscored the Horns 28-18 in the paint and had 12 second-chance points. Texas A&M graduate transfer Savion Flagg had 16 points and eight rebounds before leaving with an ankle injury.

Texas forward Timmy Allen signals to teammates against Sam Houston during Monday night's win in Gregory Gym. Only UT students were allowed into the game in the venerable campus landmark; Texas hadn't played a men's game there since 1977, the year the Longhorns moved into the Erwin Center.

Carr acknowledged there may have been some “outside voices and other stuff” who saw his early stat lines and turned up their nose. Carr came into Monday averaging just 6.4 points while shooting 35.3% overall. The 6-2 guard averaged 19.4 points last season at Minnesota and 15.4 points the season before that.

But Beard challenges every player, including Carr, to think defense first. He played lockdown defense last week against California Baptist, taking only three shots. His last three games, Carr scored just seven, two and two points, respectively.

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

“A big part of the reason why I came here is because of coach and the staff and the accountability I knew they were going to hold me to and to be a better player,” Carr said. “A lot of that came on the defensive end. that's definitely been a primary focus.”

Should Carr be labeled as Texas' point guard? Well, it’s hard to say given Beard’s intense focus on “position-less” basketball. In his mind, Carr isn’t a point guard, per se, but a playmaker, same as Ramey or Andrew Jones (14 points, four steals).

“I know we’re at Gregory tonight,” Beard said. “But the days of one can dribble, two can shoot, three can rebound, four can screen and five can make a skyhook, those days are over.”

Texas coach Chris Beard leads students to Gregory Gym after a day party at the UT Tower on Monday. The game was only opened to UT students, who were given free admission. Texas distributed 2,834 wristbands.

However you want to label Carr, thousands of UT students sure seemed appreciative of his efforts. Texas distributed 2,834 wristbands for free admission as Beard’s planned throwback game was a hit. 

More than 1,000 students were at the “darty” — the daytime party — on the South Mall of the UT Tower. “You ever been to a darty?” Beard asked as he posed for photos with anyone who approached. 

See, even 48-year-olds can learn a new language, as taught by UT junior Brock Cunningham during the coach’s Thanksgiving episode of the Fireside Chat. After the game, Beard still enjoyed how it sounds. “I love that word. Darty,” he said.

Cunningham and Dylan Disu walked around posing for photos while Austin hip-hop group Blackillac performed on the Tower steps. 

Beard thanked the crowd for coming and then led everybody downhill to Gregory, power-walking the whole way from Inner Campus Drive where it turns into East 22nd Street and runs into Speedway Boulevard. 

Another thousand students lined up outside Gregory greeted Beard like a conquering hero when he arrived. When the doors were opened, students made a beeline to the free Stubb’s BBQ and commemorative shirts. 

The gym was configured to hold 3,234 fans. The curtain was drawn on the theater stage. The event was free and exclusive to UT students, yet some well-known Texas VIPs magically found seats behind the team benches.

Team officials laid down white tape on the permanent volleyball floor to outline a basketball court. All the tape was ripped up afterward so the UT volleyball team can host NCAA championship matches later this week. Volleyball coach Jerritt Elliott’s Big 12 champions drew the No. 2 overall seed in the 64-team field. 

Texas Hellraisers cheer and sing on the sideline during Texas' 73-57 win over Sam Houston at Gregory Gym on Monday.

Even Hooten loved the atmosphere, even though his team was on the business end of all that student noise.

“I just thought it was a really neat experience overall and the environment was awesome,” Hooten said. “And I think it’ll definitely help (Texas) moving forward and getting students to games and things like that.”

Carr sure believes both he and the Horns are on the right track.

“Let’s keep building on this, keep doing it,” Carr said. “Keep playing hard, keep playing for them. We’re looking to build this thing to where we have one of the best home court advantages in the Big 12 and in the country.”

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