After a brief holiday break, the Texas Longhorns (2-2) return to the hardwood this evening against Sam Houston State (1-4). For the nine of you who have Verizon Fios and the six of you who have Grande Communications, the game will be televised on the Longhorn Network. And for the 4,000 of you who don't have anything better to do or watch this evening, see you at the Erwin Center.
Tonight's tilt begins a winnable stretch of six games for the ‘Horns. After blowing second half leads of eight and 18 in the two losses in New Jersey, it is clear that this team has a lot of growing up to do before we get to conference season. Following tonight's game Texas continues an easier stretch of nonconference games with North Texas, at UCLA, UT-Arlington, Texas State, and Nicholls State. Getting to 8-2 before hosting Temple and a trip to Chapel Hill should be the goal and is achievable.
I wasn't able to see either of the games in the Legends Classic but stats show a team struggling to defend. Texas is allowing opponents to show high percentages from the floor as well as gifting easy points by fouling and not protecting the defensive glass. I will be watching for progress tonight against the Bearkats.
Sam Houston State opened their season with a home win over Howard Payne but dropped their last four - by 31 to Notre Dame, by 22 to Mercer, by 17 to South Dakota State, and by seven to Niagra. Statistics reveal one of the worst teams in Division 1. If there is any concern tonight for ‘Horns's fans, it would be tempo. Expect the Bearkats to try to slow the game down. If they do not succeed, this will be nothing more than a lightly attended scrimmage for the Longhorns.
Follow after the jump for a few keys to the game.
Things to Watch:
- Can Texas clean the glass? Because of the limited size of this year's Texas team, this will be a key for every single game. The Bearkats do start 6-11 freshman Michael Holyfield at the center spot. At 6-7 Jaylen Bond, Alexis Wangmene, and Jonathan Holmes need to put body on body. Watch to see if the Texas forwards turn and look for the missed shot or actually box out.
- Defend without fouling. Texas has just nine scholarship players this season. If you consider that freshman Sterling Gibbs will be looked to infrequently, Rick Barnes is down to eight options. The Longhorns should be able to defeat the Bearkats even if multiple players get into foul trouble. But these nonconference games are more about Texas getting better and the Longhorns learning to play as a team than they are about the final score.
- More from Myck Kabongo. The freshman came in as heralded as any in the nation. Through four games, he's shown flashes but still has a long way to go. Tonight, look to see if Kabongo can find his stroke (shooting only 8-for-25 from the floor, 1-for-7 from three) and also cut down on turnovers (22 assists to 14 turnovers).