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Texas basketball notes: Shaka Smart doesn’t expect school to reinstate Kerwin Roach II soon

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Most of Monday’s press conference focused on the indefinite suspension of the senior guard.

NCAA Basketball: Texas at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Longhorns career of senior guard Kerwin Roach II isn’t officially over, but the team’s leading scorer does remain indefinitely suspended for a violation of team rules confirmed by the school on Friday.

Now suspended for the third time in nearly four years with the Horns, Roach isn’t likely to return soon, head coach Shaka Smart said during his Monday media availability. If that does happen at some point, it will be the decision of athletics director Chris Del Conte — Smart has discussed the situation with Del Conte, but the ultimately decision will be made at that level.

Roach isn’t receiving any special treatment from the athletic department because he’s the leading scorer, just more attention from the media as a result of the suspension.

However, Smart does feel the need to move him forward because Roach has matured during his time on campus and is set to graduate in May.

“Without getting into too much detail, he’s made a ton of progress,” Smart said. “He’s made a lot of right decisions. So it’s not a situation where he hasn’t grown and hasn’t moved forward. But obviously, with this recent turn of events, he had to be suspended and that’s where we are.

“With where he is in his career and how close he is to graduation, it’s not a situation where we would say that we’re going to cast you aside. He’s been here for almost four years and you want to see him as best he can finish the best way that he can, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be the last chapter.”

When the Longhorns traveled to Norman, Roach was even allowed to be with the team and sat on the bench during the game. Smart hasn’t made a determination about whether that will be the case in the future, however, as classes may take precedence for upcoming games.

Just don’t expect to see him on the court again in the near future.

Contributions from Gerald Liddell coming? For the sixth time all season and only the second time in conference play, the freshman forward received playing time against Oklahoma last Saturday. During the first half, no less. In three minutes, Liddell’s only contributions were a turnover and a foul, but Smart believes that he’s getting closer to being a positive factor for the Horns.

The key for Liddell will be translating practice progress into a comfort level on the court. He’s added strength, a process that Smart said needs to continue, and is now looking the part — he has size and length at the small forward position that Texas hasn’t had since Tevin Mack was dismissed from the program two years ago.

Slow start doomed the Longhorns in Norman. Texas gave up 42 in the first half against Oklahoma, with much of the damage coming in the first 12 minutes when players were beat one-on-one and struggled to keep track of their man off the ball. So, after talking publicly about the need to pay more attention to detail defensively, Smart will once again try to impress upon his team the reality that the defense has been the difference between winning and losing in conference play.

The offense struggled in the first half, too — a week to prepare for the Oklahoma zone didn’t translate into effective zone offense during the first half, largely due to a lack of aggressiveness. When the Texas guards attacked the zone in the second half, Lon Kruger was forced back into man-to-man defense, at which point the Horns were able to get the ball inside to freshman forward Jaxson Hayes and senior forward Dylan Osetkowski.

Ultimately, however, the margin created during the first half was too much to overcome.

Smart explains timeout decision. During the final seconds of the Oklahoma game, Smart was faced with the choice of how he was going to use his final timeout. Or even if he was going to use it all. He tried to call timeout before the free-throw attempt, but wasn’t able to get it called.

When the front end of the one-and-one was missed, Smart had set an alignment for his team, but opted against using the timeout when the Longhorns got the rebound. A timeout would have allowed the Horns to advance the ball and draw up a final play if called before advancing the basketball by dribbling or passing.

With just under six seconds left on the clock, Smart said it was right on the line of calling a timeout — with only a certain amount of time remaining, he would always call one.

Sophomore guard Matt Coleman eventually had his potentially game-winning three-point attempt blocked at the buzzer after he failed to get the ball up the court fast enough.

Kamaka Hepa likely to receive clearance to play on Monday. The freshman forward missed the last two games after suffering a practice injury from an errant elbow that required stitches and his placement in concussion protocol. Now that Hepa is back in the gym shooting, Smart said he expects him to be available against Baylor on Wednesday.

Brock Cunningham’s redshirt was his decision. The Austin Westlake product signed with the Horns in 2017 as a developmental project expected to eventually bring a tough mindset and outside shooting to the Longhorns program. Because Cunningham thought it was going to be difficult to earn playing time, he asked the coaches to redshirt. As a result, he’s been spending extra time with the strength and conditioning staff.

In Smart’s estimation, the biggest keys to Cunningham’s success will essentially be the reasons he was recruited — be a tough-minded, hard-nosed, aggressive player who can hit shots. Since Cunningham isn’t a high-level athlete, Smart thinks he’ll have to give maximum effort to succeed in college, as the margin of error for him is small. In practice, he’s made strides there this season, but the bigger question is how his shooting translates to games.