AUSTIN, Texas — A second-half surge sealed the deal and win to cap the non-conference slate, as the Texas Longhorns never trailed in 76-56 home win over the UT-Arlington Mavericks on Friday night.
However, It took some tweaking to find the recipe for success that’s eluded the Longhorns early this season.
In hopes of injecting some much-needed life into his Longhorns, Smart inserted Jaxson Hayes and Elijah Mitrou-Long into the starting lineup in place of Jericho Sims and Jase Febres, respectively.
The move proved impactful out of the gates.
Hayes opened the action with a dunk courtesy of a Long assist, and following a Long steal, which forced a UT-Arlington backcourt violation, Long then nailed his first three-pointer of the evening. In continuing their early efforts, Hayes tallied his first blocked shot and altered another moments later, leading the way for a Longhorns defense that kept the Mavericks scoreless until the 14:54 mark.
However, after falling into an early 7-0 hole, the Mavericks made a push of their own, scoring 10 points throughout the next five minutes to cut the deficit to four, 14-10.
Not to be outdone, the next spurt belonged to the Horns, as Courtney Ramey and Kerwin Roach II each added jumpers, and in registering his second basket of the evening, Matt Coleman III connected from the perimeter to beat the shot clock buzzer, lifting the Longhorns lead to double figures, 21-11, with just over eight minutes remaining before the break. Fewer than three full minutes later, though, that cushion was slashed in half, courtesy of four free throws from Brian Warren and Edric Dennis, and then a long-range connection from the latter to force a Texas timeout with 5:25 remaining before the half.
Coming out of the discussion, Royce Hamm found his first points with a tough, and-one opportunity at the rim before Andres Ibarguen responded with a layup of his own for his first points, sparking an exchange of layups and free throws throughout the final minutes of the first half, as Texas took the seven-point lead it enjoyed in the game’s early moments into the locker room, 33-26.
Familiar faces opened the action coming out of the break.
Once again, it was Hayes putting points on the board first, and once again, it came by way of a dunk before Dennis sank his second three-pointer of the game. Moments later, Long’s impact was felt yet again, as he carved his way through the defense for a quick layup and then came away with a steal on the other end just seconds later, though Texas was unable to cash in on the opportunity.
Nevertheless, unable to take advantage of its own opportunity, UT-Arlington coughed the ball back up on an offensive foul, paving the way for Texas to recapture a double-digit cushion behind a pair of crafty finishes from Roach.
Just like that, the Horns’ seven-point halftime lead had nearly doubled to 12 points entering the under-16 media timeout. That halftime lead then did double coming out of the timeout, thank to yet another Roach layup, and the Texas cushion didn’t cease at 14. Prior to Dennis drilled his third three-pointer of the game with just under 12 minutes remaining, the Longhorns lead had ballooned to 19 points behind a Kamaka Hepa three and a trio of buckets at the basket from Hamm and Long.
Despite the Dennis three, though, the Texas’ defense remained stout while the offense continued its second half onslaught; much of which came from Long, who cashed in on a floater to beat the shot clock before sinking a three on the following possession. Febres then matched that three with one of its own on the next possession, as the Longhorns lead grew to 24 points, 64-40, with 8:19 remaining, essentially ensuring Texas’ eighth win of the season.
By the time it was officially over, the Longhorns cushion was a comfortable 20 points, largely behind a balanced effort and key contributions from the bench.
The most notable of the bunch was Hamm, who enjoyed a career night with 10 points, four boards, including three on the offensive glass, and two blocked shots. Febres led the Longhorns in scoring from the bench, cashing in on 3-of-7 field goals and each of his four free throws. Ramey joined Hamm and Febres as key contributors off the bench with 10 points, six rebounds, and three assists, while Long and Roach each added 11 points on a combined 9-of-22 from the field.
For the Mavericks, Dennis led all scorers with 23 points, thanks in large part to six makes in nine attempts from deep, and Warren joined him in double figures with 12 points. However, no other Maverick scored more than five points, and the rest of the starting five combined for only four points.
With the non-conference slate now in the rearview, the 8-4 Longhorns will open the new year and their Big 12 schedule on the road against Kansas State (9-2) on Wednesday, Jan. 2.
This story will be updated.