The winning streak remains intact.
For the 27th consecutive game, the No. 13 Texas Longhorns beat the Texas State Bobcats, this time on Wednesday at the Erwin Center to preserve a streak that dates back to 1937.
Freshman forward Greg Brown III scored a game-high and career-high 18 points, along with three blocks, to lead the Longhorns.
With 16 of those points scored in the second half, Brown provided a key lift for the Longhorns with three made three-pointers, surpassing his season total of two on 17 attempts entering the game. The first came with five and a half minutes remaining to stretch the lead to 16 points and the following two were sandwiched around an And 1 finish at the rim.
Right now, he feels most comfortable driving to his left, where he encounters tight help defense at a level that he didn’t expect when he first arrived at Texas.
After the game, Brown admitted that it’s been a struggle for him at times on offense to start his career — he made only one of his five shot attempts in the first half — but he’s trying to learn how to play with more pace and how to involve his teammates after he was, in his own words, a one-man show at Vandegrift. He’s also trying to take the next step with his basketball IQ so that he can anticipate the next play as it develops.
One play late in the game showed Brown’s developing understanding of when to take a shot himself and when to try to make a better play for his teammates. Even after Brown hit the three three-pointers, he passed up an open three and found sophomore guard Donovan Williams, who drove and in turn found sophomore forward Kai Jones, who was fouled at the rim.
“I feel like I should make the great play for my teammates because they make great plays for me,” Brown said.
Brown also showed a flash of the competitive greatness that made him one of the top prospects in the country. When Texas State cut the lead to six in the second half with under five minutes remaining, Brown attacked the basket and scored a key layup fueled by a little back and forth with the Bobcats.
“Yeah, it did get me going,” Brown admitted. “Trash talk is one thing that gets me going.”
In the first half, the Longhorns imposed their will by getting into the paint and scoring. All told, 18 of the 33 points scored in the first half by Texas came on dunks, including the first points scored by senior forward Jericho Sims when Texas State double teamed Andrew Jones and couldn’t recover in time to stop Sims at the rim.
Texas was able to get out in transition for a big dunk by Brown, sophomore forward Kai Jones scored on an alley oop, and Courtney Ramey had a slam after a nice save by Matt Coleman to spur the transition opportunity.
However, the Longhorns suffered two significant scoring droughts in the first half, including a 6-0 Texas State run that spanned 2:14 before Shaka Smart called a timeout with the lead cut to 23-18 following a fast-break dunk by the Bobcats with just over five minutes remaining.
Frustrated with the lack of communication on defense, Smart substituted out all five players on the court, including giving junior forward Kamaka Hepa his first playing time of the season.
“I said, if you guys are not going to talk, we’re going to get five new guys in there, so Kamaka was one of them,” Smart said. “We subbed the group of five guys in and I thought they did a better job talking and our whole team did a better job talking from there on out.”
It took two possessions for the Longhorns to really respond offensively, but Kai Jones was able to get a dunk in the flow of halfcourt offense on an assist from Coleman, another Coleman assist produced a dunk by Gerald Liddell, and Hepa hit a three on Coleman’s third assist of that key stretch to push the lead to double digits. At halftime, the Longhorns held a 13-point advantage thanks to a dunk by senior forward Royce Hamm and a free throw from Ramey.
When the Longhorns ended the first half, they had recorded 11 assists on 12 made field goals, including nine dunks.
“Yeah, we needed that — we needed a lot of dunks because we weren’t shooting the ball well from outside,” Smart said. “And we’re at our best when we are attacking the basket.”
Otherwise, Texas struggled finish around the rim, going 1-of-7 shooting on layups and missing two dunk attempts. But it was a positive sign overall that 18 of the 29 shot attempts for Texas in the first half came at the basket against an extremely undersized team.
“We just wanted to really make a statement today,” redshirt junior guard Andrew Jones said. “We were aggressive. We weren’t as aggressive as we should be, but it was really part of the game plan impose our will on this team.”
Ultimately, Texas finished the game with a plus-six advantage in rebounding against a poor rebounding team on both ends of the floor and didn’t play as consistently as Smart wanted on defense. Texas State also had 13 offensive rebounds.
“We’re going to need to play tougher than we did tonight on the glass — guys are gonna have to grab the ball better,” Smart said. “We certainly weren’t at our best in that area tonight, but I did think our guys flew around and they had good energy on defense. We’re certainly going to need to rebound better on Sunday, for sure.”
Texas starts non-conference play against No. 2 Baylor on Sunday in Waco.