The Texas Longhorns left their first road trip of the season with a likely quadrant one victory over the Purdue Boilermakers. Head coach Shaka Smart and his staff should feel extremely encouraged for this upcoming season with the way their group finished in a tough environment this early in the year. The Longhorns put together a strong showing on both sides of the ball.
Road victories like this would have been tough to come by for Texas in years past. Upperclassmen guards Matt Coleman and Andrew Jones made sure they didn’t let this one slip away, as they sealed the victory for Texas at the line late. The two were unfazed by the crowd and combined to go 6-for-6 from the free throw line.
Early signs are pointing in the right direction for this group and coaching staff. Here’s a few takeaways after reflecting on this significant win for Texas.
Matt Coleman was sensational — 22 points (7-9 FG, 4-5 3PT), 4 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 turnover
The junior point guard played all but one minute and was by far the best player on the court in this game. Coleman started off 7-for-7 from the field and turned out to be the ultimate difference maker for Texas down the stretch.
Along with his impact as a playmaker off the ball, Coleman found success picking apart Purdue’s interior defense on drives. Once Coleman was able to get to the right mid-range spot, he did an excellent job at attracting their interior defenders and found an open Jericho Sims for several easy dunks. He continued to attack fearlessly on drives and put the pressure on Purdue’s defense which helped create more opportunities for himself and his teammates.
Gerald Liddell is legit — 14 points (5-7 FG), 8 rebounds, 4 rebounds
It looks like last year’s NIT helped Liddell build some confidence and momentum heading into his sophomore season. If this game is any indicator of what’s to come from Liddell, he’s going emerge into the forward that Texas desperately needed to step up after losing Jaxson Hayes to the NBA.
While he’s a bit undersized at 6’8 — he’s not a true four — Liddell played much bigger than his size on the glass against Purdue’s big bodies. On a night where Purdue out-rebounded Texas 31-23, Liddell led the Longhorns with eight boards. Along with his strong rebounding, Liddell impressed with some effective ball fakes on his way to several layups around the rim. The sophomore played with a ton of confidence on both ends and even knocked down a few long range jumpers.
Liddell’s offensive skill set and fluidity on the court looks like a small forward, but he plays like a power forward on the defensive glass. Texas will continue to need that kind of energy on the glass until freshman Will Baker and Kai Jones develop more.
Strong performance from start to finish, well-coached game
Texas checked off all the boxes for each phase of this game:
- Quick start on the road — 10-3, 17-12 leads within the first eight minutes of play.
- Made the necessary adjustments at halftime — outscored Purdue 39-32 in the second half.
- Strong finish — UT closed the game on a 13-4 run.
It certainly helps to have a defensive coach who’s as familiar with Purdue as Luke Yaklich is. — he had the team well-prepared to defend Purdue’s half-court, motion-set offense. Yaklich put a lot of defensive pressure on and off the ball to counter with Purdue’s screen offense. When Purdue wasn’t making threes from their sets, the Texas defense pressed them into turnovers (13) and tough shots.
Texas probably failed to close out on shots beyond the arc as well as Yaklich will want them to in the future — Purdue shot 8-for-16 from three. Consistent closeouts on shots is something that Yaklich constantly stresses on as a defensive coach.
Smart even utilized his timeouts at the right times. He used one to get into a 2-for-1 situation at the end of the first half and also at the 4:01 mark while trailing 60-57 to silence the home crowd.
Stat of the game
75 percent of Texas’ made shots came off an assist. They had 18 assists.