The No. 8 Texas Longhorns turned in a convincing win against the Northern Colordao Bears on Wednesday evening at the Erwin Center in the first game of the Abe Lemons Classic with a final score of 61-46.
An 8-0 run by the Bears against the end of the Longhorns bench made the final score look closely than the game actually was — Texas led by as many as 26 points in the second half, but failed to find any buckets in the final 3:25.
Junior forward Tre Mitchell led the way for the Longhorns after replacing senior forward Christian Bishop in the starting lineup, showing off his three-level scoring, including his superb post moves, with a game-high 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting while adding seven rebounds.
At the start of the second half, Mitchell’s contributions were hugely important as Northern Colorado went on a 9-2 run behind nine straight points from Mitchell, who converted an And-1 with excellent footwork around the rim, hit a mid-range jump shot, finished in the paint once again, and then converted another post move.
The only other Texas player to score in double digits was senior forward Timmy Allen, who scored eight of his 10 points in the first half. The rest of the team largely struggled, shooting only 22.2 percent from three-point range, including a combined 0-for-8 shooting from beyond the arc from senior guard Andrew Jones, senior guard Courtney Ramey, and senior guard Jase Febres. Jones was especially out of rhythm, going 1-for-8 shooting from the field with two turnovers. He was able to distribute the ball, however, finishing with a team-high four assists.
The Longhorns got off to a strong start in the game, leading 12-4 at the under-16 timeout thanks to three forced turnovers, including on the first two possessions by the Bears, two three-pointers, and perfect 4-for-4 shooting at the free-throw line. Five of those points for Texas came off of two offensive rebounds.
At the 9:05 mark, Northern Colorado had to call a timeout in the midst of an 8-0 run by Texas to extend the lead to 23-9 thanks to a fast-break bucket by Allen, who had just scored on an offensive rebound. It was the only fast-break basket of the game for the Horns.
Strong cuts by Texas helped the offense through the first part of the first half, particularly by Ramey. Crisp ball movement in general allowed the Longhorns to assist on seven of the first nine baskets, with many of those conversions coming after turnovers (12 points) or offensive rebounds (nine points).
Texas finished the half with a 37-15 lead behind a game-high eight points from Allen and a plus-14 shot differential, as well as all six free-throw attempts in the game. In the opening 20 minutes, the Horns forced 12 turnovers by the Bears and didn’t allow a single offensive rebound. All the turnovers by Northern Colorado meant that head coach Steve Smiley’s team went into the break with more five more turnovers than made baskets, thanks in part to a scoring drought of 6:15 late in the first half.
The big halftime lead allowed the Longhorns to largely cruise through the second half, holding the Bears to only 18 made baskets and forcing 20 turnovers overall, including 11 steals. Texas converted those turnovers into 19 points and held a 17-5 advantage in second-chance points thanks to 15 offensive rebounds. The disparities in turnovers and offensive rebounds allowed the home team to attempt 16 more baskets than the visitors.
Next up for Texas is another game in the Abe Lemons Classic on Saturday at the Erwin Center against San Jose State.