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The Texas Longhorns Beat Incarnate Word in Tight Opener, 78-73

It wasn’t an easy win.

NCAA Basketball: Incarnate Word at Texas Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Longhorn picked up a tough victory to start the season. Texas held on to win late, 78-73, over Incarnate Word. Incarnate Word’s Shawn Johnson led all players with 24 points, while Kendal Yancy picked up 19 for the Longhorns.

Texas were playing with only seven scholarship players tonight, as Tevin Mack and Kerwin Roach were out, serving a suspension for an off-season rules violation, while Mareik Isom was held out as he recovered from ankle surgery.

The game got off to a sloppy start for the Texas offense, with several early turnovers. The Cardinals hit a few early shots and took an 8-4 lead into the first media time out. But after scores by Jacob Young and Kendal Yancy, followed by an Eric Davis three, the Longhorns took their first lead of the season. This lead would hold until late in the game.

After a strong first half for Texas Incarnate Word didn’t exactly roll over and die, as the Cardinals kept things within reach. In the second period, Texas found itself in a shooting slump, and coach Ken Burmeister’s squad took advantage, closing to within five points midway through the half. The margin would close to two with a little more than seven minutes remaining.

At this point things got really tight, as the game slowed down and both teams struggled offensively. Texas’ first half success inside with freshman big man Jarrett Allen was no longer working, as the Incarnate Word defense collapsed on Allen, and the Longhorn guards could not make the resulting open threes. Texas would finish the game 3-18 from three point range, including 1-10 in the second half. (This is a big part of the reason that the game was so close.)

It didn’t help that Andrew Jones, Shaka Smart’s primary ball handler had to leave the game midway through the second half with what appeared to be a cramp. In Jones’ absence, the Texas offense struggled and stagnated even more than it had leading up to his exit. Jones would reenter the game with under two minutes left and play the rest of the way.

The game would stay very close. With 2:30 minutes remaining, Sam Burmeister hit a deep three for the Cardinals, and Incarnate Word took the lead back from the Longhorns. Texas reclaimed the lead a minute later on a pair of Yancy free throws. After a Cardinal airball, Allen found Yancy creeping through the lane for a short bank shot resulting in a three point margin. On the ensuing possession, the Longhorns would come up with a loose ball, an Andrew Jones layup, and 72-67 lead.

From this point on, Texas mostly did what it needed to do to win. Eric Davis hit a pair of free throws to put Texas up by seven. But Johnson struck back, banking in a three to pull it within four with 13 seconds remaining. As we always say here at Burnt Orange Nation — hit the square.

Two Yancy free throws would give Texas a 76-70 lead. Things seemed pretty well in hand at this point, with only 11 seconds remaining. Things still seemed in hand when Jones missed two free throws with four ticks left. And they still were kind of in hand when Jones fouled Johnson shooting a 35 foot three right at the buzzer — a foul seemingly committed purely for sport.

Johnson made all three free throws and again narrowed the margin to three with 0.6 seconds remaining. Texas guard Eric Davis knocked down two more free throws and set the final 78-73 score.

Jarrett Allen got his college career of to a strong start, beginning the game 3-4 from the field, and scoring a team-high 13 points in the first half. Allen is an interesting player in that he seldom does anything jaw-dropping, but he just really knows how to play basketball. Incarnate Word had no one who could credibly contend with his size.

The Cardinals did a better job on Allen in the second half, pinching extra defenders down into the paint to limit his chances. The Texas freshman did fine work on the boards, pulling down a game high twelve rebounds, but would only score an additional three points in the second half, finishing the game with 16. All in all, it was a nice game. Once the defense corrected to make things hard on him, it was time for his teammates to take over. This is where things fell apart.

Shaquille Cleare picked up two early fouls, and picked up a third late in the first half. This left a lot of work for reserve big man James Banks, who had quite the half, grabbing eight rebounds and blocking three shots in the first 20 minutes. He would finish the game with five blocked shots.

Game Notes:

  • This is a team that is going to need to run, run, run. Depending on the particular lineup on the floor, the Texas half-court offense looks to get stuck occasionally. On nights like tonight, when open perimeter shots aren’t falling, things can get difficult. But this is a team full of players who are hard to defend in an open-court game, and faster tempo will make the scoring easier.
  • All season long we will be carefully watching turnovers. Tonight, the Longhorns turned the ball over 15 times. This worked out to a turnover in 18 percent of the Longhorn possessions, which all in all isn’t that bad for such a young team. With better shooting from the perimeter, this game wouldn’t have been nearly as close.

Today is Veterans Day in the United States, and a day where much of the world remembers the horrors of the First World War. Because 98 years ago today, the fighting stopped.

John McCrae was a Canadian soldier and physician who survived the Second Battle of Ypres, which is perhaps the first time in human history that an army unleashed a large-scale chemical gas attack on an enemy. It was a horrifying nightmare that left many dead, but the Canadian line held.

Combat greatly damaged the soil of WWI battle fields, and little more than poppies could grow after the fighting was done. Poppies also quickly grew over the graves of buried soldiers. Inspired by this image and moved by the loss of fallen friends, McCrae penned one of the most famous poems of the 20th century. In Flanders Fields is something that Canadian school children learn by heart, and the rest of us would do well to listen to it, too.

Yesterday Canada and the world lost another great poet — the singer Leonard Cohen. Here is Leonard Cohen reciting In Flanders Fields.