Following a scintillating victory over the Purdue Boilermarkers in West Lafayette on Saturday, the Texas Longhorns return to the Erwin Center on Tuesday evening to host the California Baptist Lancers in the 2K Empire Classic benefitting the Wounded Warrior Project.
Head coach Rick Croy and the Lancers are 2-0 on the season after blowout victories over Jackson State and Cal Lutheran. In the latter contest, Cal Baptist scored 112 points and won by 59 points by getting to the free-throw line 33 times and making 13 three pointers on 41.9 shooting from beyond the arc.
As Texas head coach Shaka Smart opened his computer to watch film on the Lancers on the plane back to Austin Saturday night, he commented to his assistant coaches on the quality of Cal Baptist, which is ranked No. 145 nationally in KenPom.com’s adjusted efficiency metric.
Led by senior guards Brandon Boyd and Ferron Flavors, along with junior guard Milan Acquaah, a Washington State transfer, Cal Baptist has a backcourt that Smart believes is one of the best the Longhorns have seen for a while — they’re confident, aggressive, and can shoot the basketball. Boyd shot 39.8 percent from three in 2016-17 at Idaho State, Acquaah shot 35.6 percent last season, and Flavors is 4-of-5 shooting from distance so far this season.
So the Lancers will challenge the new defensive approach by Longhorns assistant coach Luke Yacklich to take away three-point shots without giving up straight line drives to the basket.
Since Cal Baptist also typically plays a three-guard lineup with an undersized player at power forward, Texas should be able to rebound better defensively since it won’t be at the same size disadvantage Smart and his team faced against Purdue.
For the Longhorns, Smart is looking for more consistency from junior guard Matt Coleman, who had one of the best games of his career on Saturday with 22 points on only nine shots and seven assists. Coleman is known to play well in big games, but hasn’t always brought the same level of intensity to games against less-regarded opponents.
Tuesday’s game should also provide an opportunity for some of the younger players to get settled in — freshman center Will Baker still hasn’t scored yet and has three turnovers through two games and redshirt freshman forward Brock Cunningham didn’t score against Northern Colorado before failing to hear his number called against Purdue.
Texas has a 92-percent win probability, according to KenPom.com, with a projected margin of 79-63.
The game tips off at 7 p.m. Central on Longhorn Network.