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Texas drops final non-conference game in disheartening loss to Kent State, 63-58

Turnovers, a lack of defensive rebounds, and poor shooting sunk the Longhorns.

NCAA Basketball: Kent State at Texas Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

In a season filled with poor offensive performances, the turnover-filled brick fest by the Texas Longhorns on Tuesday against the Kent State Golden Flash in a 65-58 loss in the Erwin Center was one of the worst in a bad season that continues to trend down.

The ‘Horns went nearly 11 minutes without scoring in the second half, missing 11 shots during that stretch, in what became the game’s decisive stretch.

An inability to protect the ball in turning it over a season-high 18 times, an inability to protect the defensive glass in allowing 22 offensive rebounds for Kent State, and an inability to hit three pointers in making 2-of-18 attempts all led to the disappointing loss.

Kent State guard Jaylin Walker scored a game-high 24 points, including two big drunk in the final 32 seconds, with seven of his nine field goals coming in a big second half. Double-double machine Jimmy Hall added 11 points and 11 rebounds despite spending most of the final 20 minutes in foul trouble.

The leading scorer for Texas, guard Tevin Mack, started by missing his first six shots, then finally responded with two late baskets when the game was on the line. A dunk by Allen on a pass from Roach off penetration finally gave the ‘Horns more baskets than turnovers 39 minutes into the game.

However, it wasn’t enough, as Hall and Walker took over down the stretch. Hall hit a key bank shot in the low post overmatching Allen with his strength, then Walker essentially put the game away. Following a missed lay up by Texas guard Kerwin Roach Jr., Walker leaked out behind Andrew Jones in transition for an authoritative slam to put the Golden Flash up by six with 32 seconds remaining.

Hall then contested a shot by Texas guard Eric Davis Jr., to force a missed shot that quickly resulted in another dunk by Walker just before the final buzzer. The struggling Davis finished the game with only one point after missing all six of his attempts from the field.

Kent State scored 18 of its first 25 points in the paint, aided by poor interior defense from Texas and 12 offensive rebounds. While that wasn’t particularly surprising given that the Golden Flash lead the nation in corralling missed shots on the offensive end, it was extremely damaging defensively. For the half, the ‘Horns only managed 14 defensive rebounds.

Poor shooting also played a role, as the shot selection for Kent State resulted in like 3-of-13 shooting for Hall, 2-of-6 shooting for Walker, and 1-of-5 shooting for guard Deon Erwin. As a team, the visitors only managed to hit 26.5 percent in the opening 20 minutes.

Texas wasn’t much better for most of the half, but did manage to finish with a strong spurt to post a 35.7-percent mark. Forward Jarrett Allen led the way with nine points and seven rebounds, though his struggles from the free-throw line continued — he converted on only 3-of-7 opportunities.

The highlight of a half was a resounding slam on an alley oop from Mack to Allen, keyed by an outlet pass from Jones following a bad shot by Walker.

Unfortunately, hitting from distance was a struggle once again — the ‘Horns finished 1 of 10 from three-point range in the first half, with Jacob Young connecting on only one of his four attempts. Young missed both of his attempts in the second half.

Overall, the half was poorly played, with the Golden Flash missing all eight shots from beyond the arc and committing 11 turnovers to exceed the 10 miscues from the Longhorns. The teams combined for only five assists.

So it was probably a good thing that few people witnessed that atrocity at the Erwin Center, as the crowd was typically sparse for a non-conference match up during the holiday break.

Within the first four minutes of the second half, Texas turned the ball over four more times, including two by Jones, one on a transition opportunity that negated a possible dunk or layup and another on the ensuring possession where he simply dribbled right into a steal by a cheating defender.

Roach hit two free throws less than a minute later to take a 37-31 lead, but Texas went cold from the field after that, as missed three pointers and a lack of production from James Banks resulted in an 11-2 Kent State run that prompted a timeout from Shaka Smart.

At that point, the ‘Horns hadn’t made a field goal in more than five minutes of game time.

Coming out of the timeout, Allen attempted his third three pointer of the season. As with his two previous attempts, he missed.

When Smart called another timeout after an alley-oop dunk pushed the Kent State lead to 46-39, Texas still hadn’t hit a shot from the field in eight minutes.

Almost the entirety of the Golden Flash run came with Hall on the bench with four fouls.

When Jones finished with a layup in transition on which he was fouled, the ‘Horns had missed 11 straight shots over nearly 11 minutes.

But Jones missed his free throw and the poor free-throw shooting in the game pointed to a loss — in wins, Texas hits around 80 percent from the line, but shoots around 60 percent from the line in loses.

Combined with the aforementioned issues protecting the basketball, securing defensive rebounds, and making baskets, the ‘Horns couldn’t overcome an extremely average, but tough Golden Flash team.

It’s going to be a long conference season.

Buckle up, y’all, but first, stock up on some whiskey. Lots of whiskey.