In front of plenty of empty seats at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, the Texas Longhorns easily handled the Texas A&M Aggies on Sunday, 60-50, in a game where head coach Shaka Smart’s team only trailed for 21 seconds and led by as many as 15 points.
And though the game lacked the intensity of a rivalry game, Smart noted that it had some of the hallmarks of the old matchups between the two teams in the Big 12 — less about style and more about who approached it with a higher level of toughness. On Sunday, that team was Texas in an ugly, choppy affair that started all slowly before finding some rhythm in the second half
Jase Febres led the Longhorns with 17 points and hit three three-pointers in the second half to maintain separation from the Aggies. It was exactly the type of game that Febres needed to boost his confidence after struggling with his shooting in nearly every game this season.
Andrew Jones added 12 points and five assists, while Courtney Ramey added seven assists of his own in the midst of another poor shooting performance. Overall, Texas had assisted on 19 of 23 made baskets, including another highlight-reel dunk from Kai Jones, who continued to flash his significant upside.
The Longhorns didn’t shoot the ball particularly well from deep — 31 percent — but made nine three-pointers and held the Aggies to 3-of-11 three-point shooting to provide a 27-9 advantage. By forcing 21 turnovers and grabbing 10 offensive rebounds, Texas was plus-13 in shot attempts to make up for a continued inability to get to the free-throw line — the Horns only attempted six foul shots.
With the Aggies packing the paint and overplaying the passing lanes, Texas struggled some offensively, especially in the first half when head coach Shaka Smart’s team turned the ball over seven times, shot 25 percent from three-point range, and often looked tentative on offense as ball and player movement stagnated and the team lacked aggression off the bounce. Ramey and Matt Coleman also combined for five of the team’s seven turnovers in first half and finished with nine total.
After the game, Smart credited Jones for a level of aggressiveness he thought was missing from some of his other guards.
To A&M’s credit, the Aggies defense looked better in the halfcourt than it has in previous games this season, but the offense struggled in the first half, even when it was able to get shots up, missing three easy shots around the rim. While Josh Nebo was active around the rim in scoring 16 points on only 10 shots, the rest of the Texas A&M offense failed to produce any credible threat to Texas for the final 30 minutes or so.
Now 8-1, Texas enters the final stretch of non-conference play with only three games for the rest of December, affording an important opportunity for the Horns to improve before facing the rigors of the double round-robin Big 12 schedule.