Texas guard Andrew Jones (1) celebrates scoring against Eastern Washington during a NCAA college basketball game at the Frank Erwin Center Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016. (Stephen Spillman / for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Men's Basketball

Texas freshmen guards to see stiffer defensive test in Brooklyn

Texas will face Northwestern on Monday, then meet either Notre Dame or Colorado on Tuesday at Barclays Center

Posted November 20th, 2016

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Brooklyn is the blue-collar New York borough that has slowly transformed itself into a cultural landscape that rivals anything you can find in midtown Manhattan.

Shaka Smart would just like to spend a few days at Barclays Center molding his team into something that’s suitable for Broadway.

No. 23 Texas will spend the early portion of Thanksgiving week playing two of the best teams it will see during non-conference play. Northwestern, Notre Dame and Colorado are all headed to the Legends Classic, a gathering where everyone can feel like they should come away victorious.

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Texas guard Jacob Young passes over Incarnate Word's Shawn Johnson during the first half of their game at the Erwin Center on Friday, November 11, 2016. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Texas guard Jacob Young passes over Incarnate Word’s Shawn Johnson during the first half of their game at the Erwin Center on Friday, November 11, 2016. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

First, the Longhorns (3-0) will meet the Wildcats at approximately 8:30 p.m. Monday. Then, Texas will face either Notre Dame or Colorado on Tuesday. After this trip, the only difficult game left on UT’s non-conference appears to be at Michigan on Dec. 6.

RELATED COVERAGE: Men’s preview: No. 23 Texas vs. Northwestern

“It’s going to be fun, especially when we’re winning,” senior Kendal Yancy said. “Just keep doing what we’re doing and take it to another level. It’s gonna be fun.”

The Longhorns cruised through three home wins against lower-level competition. But this will be a considerable step up for the Horns and their freshmen guards, Andrew Jones and Jacob Young.

Northwestern’s Bryant McIntosh already has 16 assists this season, and Scottie Lindsey is a career 38-percent shooter from 3-point range. But they’re coming off a difficult loss at Butler where the Bulldogs clinched a 70-68 win thanks to a jumper with 0.8 seconds left.

“It should be a really, really good game, but at the end of the day, I’ve found that I’m a lot better coach with a lot better talent,” said Eastern Washington’s Jim Hayford, who has faced both Texas and Northwestern this season. “Texas, from one to eight (players), is more talented than Northwestern.

“Should be a fun game,” he added. “I’m going to watch.”

Smart has said numerous times that Jones is just scratching the surface of his potential. The 6-4 point guard finished in double figures in his first three games. Thursday’s win over Eastern Washington may have been the most impressive showing, though.

Jones yielded his starting spot back to sophomore Kerwin Roach Jr. Still, the McDonald’s All-American came off the bench to score 17 points on 6 of 10 shooting and had three steals.

Young had his first off night. He was 0 for 4 from 3-point range and had three turnovers in 19 minutes. That’s OK, too. There are expected ups and downs for any freshman.

Smart goes to great lengths to stress that players cannot let their offense affect their defense. And make no mistake, McIntosh and Lindsey will likely be huge eye-opening defensive tests.

“In practice, they were on me a lot about staying in a stance,” Jones said. “(Smart) gives me a lot of confidence that I could be a great defender, and it’s an adjustment because I didn’t play much defense in high school.”

Smart admitted few high school recruits know how to play defense at this level. “That’s just kind of the way it works,” he said. “Now, when you get to college, it’s kind of like ready or not.”

Give Jones some credit. An infinite number of high school players probably feel the same way, but few would admit that. That’s another area where Yancy, Roach and Eric Davis Jr. must provide leadership.

About about the ease of UT’s 3-0 start, Davis said, “I wouldn’t call it easy. That’s what these freshmen are learning quickly. No game is easy.”

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com.

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