It is a common basketball cliché to say that a team "controlled the game from the opening tip." It's cliché, but it fits here; Cameron Ridley won the opening tap, and within six seconds Jonathan Holmes made a layup, drew a foul, and converted the three point play. After six seconds, the Longhorns were in charge, winning a business-like game against an over-matched opponent by a final score of 66-44.
Rick Barnes' game plan was clear from the beginning -- get the ball inside. Texas' four leading scorers were the four big men: Holmes had 15 points, Ridley scored 14, Connor Lammert got 10, and Prince Ibeh finished with 8. Sean Obi led Rice with 10 points, and was the only Owl in double figures.
The only hope Rice had to make a game of things was to get hot from three. But the Owls were not hot, going 6-29 from beyond the arc. Rice sharp-shooter Austin Ramljak was 1-9 from three point range. The Texas defense was respectable, but many of the misses were open looks -- Rice just couldn't make them.
Barnes spent much of the first half changing defenses and tinkering with lineups, trying many things out before conference play starts this Saturday. Texas played man defense, 2-3 zone, pressed, and trapped at different points. In the first half, the Longhorns played Ridley, Ibeh, and Holmes on the court at the same time for a few minutes.
One of the biggest beneficiaries of the tinkering was freshman guard Martez Walker. Walker hasn't played much this season, but he played against Rice, and played well. Walker was 2-3 from three point range, had five rebounds, and dropped two nice assists to Connor Lammert for easy layups.
For those watching the free throw shooting, Texas was 19-27 from the line today, which works out to 70 percent. Ridley was 6-7 from the line, while Ibeh was 4-6. Both Ridley and Ibeh's struggles at the line are well-documented. I am not sure if Ibeh's stroke has improved very much, but Ridley's clearly has. Ridley has now hit the 60 percent free throw shooting barrier, which is a substantial improvement over the 33 percent he posted last year.
Texas starts conference play this Saturday, when the Oklahoma Sooners come to Austin.